The Unintended Consequences of ‘good’ HR

antique vaseWhen we look at the Human Resources Body of Knowledge as outlined by HR’s professional credentialing group, the Human Resources Certification Institute, we see there are 6 broad areas: (1) Business Management & Strategy (2) Workforce Planning & Employment (3) Human Resource Development (4) Compensation & Benefits (5) Employee & Labor Relations and (6) Risk Management.

That covers a lot of territory – as anyone who works in HR can tell you.

The “specialists” dive deep into a particular area including folks with titles like Talent Acquisition Director or Compensation Analyst, while the “generalist” HR leaders and practitioners focus on all of those broad areas.  Not every generalist will be a Labor Relations expert, but we all have to have a fair enough understanding of what’s coming down the road when the NLRB comes out with some new edict.

Most every HR practitioner is consumed with delivering at a high level; very few HR pros purposefully set out to be sucky.  Problems arise, however, when HR practices are treated with the level of sacredness usually reserved for the antique vase that grandpa gave to grandma when they were courting.  “Put it on the shelf!” “It’s never to be touched!” (You can, however, gaze upon it reverentially when company arrives or it’s a holiday).

We’ve gotten to this point because Judy the HR Director dispenses the wisdom she’s gleaned over her 35 years working in human resources to eager young acolytes thirsting for insight. Once upon a time Judy latched onto a “best practice” (whether it had anything to do with her specific needs, goals or organization was probably irrelevant) and what was once novel, innovative and groundbreaking (well, for someone else in any event) continues to fossilize in her HR Department.

Judy’s CEO, department managers and employees quite likely consider her a ‘good’ HR director; they’re being paid on time, their health insurance coverage is in order and new hires join the organization with achingly familiar regularity. You can bet that Judy is hitting all the high points within each of those 6 HR Bodies of Knowledge. When she attends HR conferences she makes sure to attend every legal update session, PPACA session and any session where her local employment attorney talks about the latest happenings from the US Circuit Court.

And what Judy knows, or learned in 1985, is what she’s passed on to every single one of the HR Reps, HR Generalists and Benefit Coordinators who have joined her team over the years.  All of whom have been characterized as doing ‘good’ HR by the CEO, department managers and employees – just like Judy.

So they keep playing it safe.  They tool along and consider themselves prepared for the future.  “Look,” they say, “we implemented a new cloud-based HCM system/ATS/Performance Appraisal system!”  Of course, as many do, they merely replicated Judy’s circa 1999 process/forms in an online system… but they did ‘good!’

With unintended consequences.

Soon to be discovered.

One comment

  1. Robin:
    I am in total agreement. The dilemma for Judy and her acolytes is how to break out of that cycle. If you don’t know what you don’t know how do you learn it? Who breaks the mold?

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