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Why We Hate HR–Counterpoint

At the risk of reopening old wounds, allow me to present the findings of Jacquelyn Thorp Kinworthy, a professor at Cal State-Fullerton and CEO/founder of HR-Coach Products and Services. In an effort to counter my story from last August, “Why We Hate HR,” Jacquelyn polled HR execs at small and mid-sized firms about their work, their careers, and their companies. Here’s what she found…

At the risk of reopening old wounds, allow me to present the findings of Jacquelyn Thorp Kinworthy, a professor at Cal State-Fullerton and CEO/founder of HR-Coach Products and Services. In an effort to counter my story from last August, “Why We Hate HR,” Jacquelyn polled HR execs at small and mid-sized firms about their work, their careers, and their companies.

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Here’s what she found…

1) Companies hire inexperienced and unqualified people to handle HR, but expect them to perform at higher levels than they are qualified.

The survey showed that most people enter HR without being qualified for the job. Companies hire people to be HR Directors who have no higher education, certifications or experience – then expect these people to be strategic partners. According to Hammonds, “In a knowledge economy, companies with the best talent win. And finding, nurturing, and developing that talent should be one of the most important tasks in a corporation. So why does human resources do such a bad job — and how can we fix it?” The answer is for organizations to hire the best HR talent and to invest in educated, certified, experienced HR professionals.

2) Companies do not invest in HR as they do in other departments.

The salaries for HR may be “commensurate with experience”. The survey shows that very few HR people make any where near 6 figures – in a 6 figure world. Over half of the participants have been in HR for more than 10 years. Half of the HR respondents have a PHR, SPHR, GPHR or other certification. There seems to be no distinction in pay between those highly qualified for the job and those minimally qualified for the job.

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3) Many small to medium size companies have HR people that are strategic partners.

Most of the HR participants believe that they are strategic partners. It would be interesting to ask their CEO’s and management team’s opinion.

MY TAKE (this is Keith again): I certainly agree with Jacquelyn’s first finding. Companies have to invest more to hire great people for this increasingly critical function.

On #2, it’s not clear what better explains the HR pay gap. Is it mostly because companies don’t value HR (which they don’t) or because HR doesn’t provide much value (which it often doesn’t)?

As for #3, research from USC suggests that HR people consistently overestimate their contributions as strategic partners. Not that they don’t contribute–but the line managers they work with typically value this partnership less than does HR.

In any case, many thanks to Jacquelyn.