The Seven Hard Truths That HR Professionals Must Learn to Accept

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In a perfect world we all get a seat at the table, all of our employees go online and fill out their open enrollment forms on time, and all of our hiring managers give us immediate feedback on each candidate resume we send them.

Unfortunately, none of us live in a perfect world. There are some hard and fast truths in our profession that we have to accept, and by accepting those truths, it allows us to let go and move on with trying to better our organizations each day.

Accepting these truths doesn’t mean we are giving up and not trying to change our profession, our organizations, and ourselves for the better. Accepting these truths gives us permission to accept our reality, and it allows us to work towards, little-by-little, making the HR profession better.

The 7 Hard Truths for HR pros

So, here are the seven (7) “Hard Truths” that HR professionals must learn to accept:

  1. Focusing on compliance, will never allow you to become strategic. Operations in our organizations have long known this, and this alone allows them to control most of the decision-making power in your organization. A compliance focused department will never be innovative, it will never creative, it will never be “strategic.”
  2. Your Performance Management system will not fix everything. In fact no system or process will fix everything. We drive a people business and thus we deal with a very nebulous product – people. As soon as you create a process or implement a system, some hiring manager or employee will find a flaw in it. It’s OK not to be perfect.
  3. You’ll never get all the resources you need to do the job you want to do. People are your most important asset, but shareholders/stakeholders need a return on investment. Thus, resources are always going to go first to where that return is the highest, and sorry, but HR isn’t first on the list.
  4. Your company’s deepest secrets are only a Tweet away. And your social media policy and a lock down of social media sites isn’t going to stop these secrets from getting out, if you have a rogue employee who wants to get them out. This is similar to the reality that you will probably more likely die on your way to work in a traffic accident then in a plane crash on your way to vacation – but we tend to worry more about the plane crash.
  5. Your employees and managers will never fully support themselves on self-service modules. It’s a dream, sold to you by software vendors, and you buy into it because you hate dealing with the daily administration of HR. No matter what, we’ll always have some of this to do. It also is OK, because it’s not what we do all day, every day. No job is perfect. Pull up your big boy pants and help them out – you’ll live.
  6. Fraternization will always happen. We manage adults (even if they don’t act like adults), and until the end of time, adults put in close proximity of each other will eventually be attracted o each other. Blame God, blame the laws of the universe, blame your parents – I don’t care. It’s a fact, so deal with it.
  7. You’ll never get the full respect you deserve. This is a function of organizational dynamics. HR doesn’t make the money, operations and sales makes the money – and respect will be given to those who actually keep the doors open and the lights on. If you got into HR for your deep need for respect, sorry, you picked the wrong career. On the plus side, we get a lot of conference room cookie leftovers!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

  • Dave Ryan

    Another great post Tim, and while I think some of your comments are intended to be tongue in cheek they aren’t. Sadly they are dead on. Further I completely agree that if you are looking for a pat on the back you had better move into sales or operations. 

  • Jeff Seidman

    Only 7?  What is interesting about this is that they are all pretty self-evident.  After some time in HR Leadership, provided you think strategically, you see this in the comments from your team.  I think i have said something similar to my team at different times.  Here are a few others I have;
    *In every benefits enrollment, something will go wrong.  We don’t know what it will be, who it will affect, how large impact will be, but we know it will happen.  Don’t get frustrated, just be prepared to fix the problem.
    *Every software implementation will take longer than anticipated and will require more time than you thought.  
    *Hiring talent is like baseball.  If you hit for a high average you will be valuable.  But if you occasionally hit one out of the park in hiring, you will be considered a star.  Being good at hiring, like baseball takes lots of practice, plenty of game experience, and the ability to recognize that you are going to fail.

  • tobybarazzuol

    Some good reminders here, thanks for putting them together.  The funny thing is that most of these things result from forgetting that we are all simply people.  When we try to apply too much rigour and control over how people naturally get along, those systems tend to break down.  HR is about facilitating the group and finding ways to appreciate and recognize people’s efforts.  Happy people tend to be more engaged, and engaged people tend to be more productive – we make it much more complicated than it needs to be.

  • China Gorman

    And, as one of my early bosses told me, you’ll never be paid what you’re worth. But that’s probably true for everyone.

  • SOI

    When HR is compliance-focused it will never have the time to become strategy-focused. An HR team can become strategy focused if it can hand off the daily transactional duties to free up time.