Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shut Up, I'm Not Being Defensive

The role of the HR leader is an odd one. We're expected to be there for employees, and also understand the industries we're in so we can make effective decisions at an institutional level. We are sometimes expected to stay out of the way while the Operations folks take charge; that is until the Operations folks mess things up and we are expected to "get in there" and get everything back on track.

To be perfectly honest I don't think there is another role quite like that of the HR practitioner.

The Blame Game
One of the core competences of the HR team is to recruit viable candidates for the organization. It's an exciting part of the job, and with the crush of so many social channels available, it can be an incredibly creative part as well.

Except when recruitment isn't going so well...then we suck. Or at least we're sometimes made to feel that way, even when we know we're putting all our efforts into the search process. We often need a hiring manager who understands the dynamics of an odd labor market and can actually make a hiring decision. It's really nice when that happens.

So in that moment when you're receiving "feedback" (read here -> HR is being told how ineffective they've been and all you need to do is listen to the completely inexperienced non-HR leaders and all will be right with the world) how do you react?

Are you angry? Is frustration creeping in? Are you laughing when you hear the most ridiculous suggestions and you realize they are serious? Earlier in my career I did each one of these things.

That wasn't good.

It's Work, It's Not You
Nowadays I try to take a very different approach. Instead of falling into the trap of an emotional reaction (good or bad) I try to simply listen. Sometimes the hiring managers have valuable insights about the search process, and other times they come off as being very inexperienced because they are inexperienced.

Just because I have been in healthcare for a long time doesn't mean I can provide clinical care. The same holds true for the well intended but off-base hiring manager. They too have worked in healthcare for a long time, but they have not been responsible for the full cycle of sourcing, advertising, and recruiting candidates.

That's okay...they are supposed to be taking care of patients, not worrying about HR. That's my job!

How About You
How do engage your hiring managers? Is it a partnership where each person respects the other's professional experience and role in the organization? Or, are you constantly finding yourself ready to argue about the latest criticism combined with a ridiculous recruitment idea that "clearly no one in HR had ever considered before?"

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


  1. Hi Jay - great post...really strikes a chord with me especially earlier in my career. I still deal with these types although they are in the minority..mostly b/c they have seen the value that HR provides. I find that regular communication with managers helps to alleviate the types of conversations you mentioned above - ie removing the mystery of the corporate HR veil (or HR trolls as I have heard!) The smaller group of HR dissenters still can't get past the old days of the "Personnel Dept." I have come to realize that for them it is a perceived threat they have of HR. In other words, how can HR know more about MY people than I do? They are there to process paper and move things through. These same types are also threatened when HR shows up at Operations meetings so that they can support the business.

    1. Thanks Scott. Great insights from you as well...its funny that some folks just won't let go of old controlling habits.

      Have a great week!