What Does HR Do?

Type this into Google, and you get 3,880, 000,000 results. Seems like HR does a lot. Let me break it down for you.images

  1. HR “keeps the lights on”- we process payroll, administer benefits enrollment, process direct deposits, answer 401k questions, reset your ADP password, interpret company policies for managers, walk employees through leaves of absence, fix employee PTO balances and gather acknowledgement forms.
  2. HR tries to create an environment where employees feel safe and secure. We make sure there are band aids, that staff is trained in first-aid, we take first reports of injury, we create policies around front-desk security, deliver discrimination and harassment prevention training and monitor the work environment for bullying or violations of standards of conduct.
  3. HR plans social activities, but we don’t like to. In companies, the job of potlucks, holiday parties, birthday celebrations, baby showers, pumpkin carving contests and all-hands meetings usually lands in the lap of HR. Not only does it suck but it totally erodes the value of what a good HR department can do for a company.
  4. HR creates brand strategies. We figure out the value of the organization and what it can provide, package that message and use it when attracting talent to the company.
  5. HR does not terminate employees. Managers do. When managers are not satisfied with an employee, they come to HR. HR asks a series of questions to investigate the issue, determine the cause and make recommendations. If one of those solutions is termination, HR further investigates to make sure the termination is not wrongful. HR may be in the room to witness the discussion, but we do not pull that trigger and we do not deliver that message.
  6. HR partners with management to determine talent needs and develops strategies to find that talent. This is an ongoing and continuously challenging responsibility.
  7. HR covers the companies’ ass. HR practitioners must stay on top of Federal and State Laws,  and County and City Ordinances, interpret the repercussions of those laws on the company and work environment and advise leadership accordingly.
  8. HR helps company leadership develop compensation philosophy. HR takes into account the companies’ financials, the organization’s mission, vision and values and makes recommendations on the company’s direct and indirect compensation and benefits package.
  9. HR mediates disputes in the workplace, disputes between employees, disputes between managers and employees, disputes between leadership and employees.
  10. HR does not deliver disciplinary warnings or performance discussions to employees. Again, these are a manager’s jobs. HR gets involved to help document issues, serve as a witness to the discussion or we get involved when the manager botches it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but is just a sampling, if you will, of what HR does. For those who don’t know.

Setting Up Employees to Fail


Implicit within the employment agreement are certain things that the employer owes to the employee to set him or her up for success. If the employer neglects their end of the bargain, the employer ensures the employees’ failure. This is very basic. And I think almost every reasonable person would agree on what the role of the employer is. Yet time and time again, employers fail on this fundamental level. The way this usually plays out is when a manager is sitting in my office complaining about an employee who has barely worked 6 months and all of the shiny luster has worn off because reality has set in. It’s almost like the manager really wants to say (and in some cases does) “well, we hired the employee, now you’re saying we have to something with him:?!?!?!?!”.

Employers owe the following things to their employees as part of the employment agreement. These should be nonnegotiables and HR should be doing everything in their authority to make sure the employer is holding up their end.

The tools to do their jobs. Oh my god. This is so damn obvious. But we have all heard the stories of employees starting work and on Day 1, they do not have a computer, a login, a security badge to get in the door let alone an orientation, a resource to ask questions or a written training plan. Employees know they are hired to do a job. But without the proper tools and training, you, the employer, are making this impossible.

Decent compensation. All companies should have a compensation philosophy, at the end of the day it provides purpose for whether the employer decides to lead, lag or meet the market. This philosophy should be transparent and communicated to candidates and employees. So when the inevitable conversation arises about pay dissatisfaction, the company and the manager are prepared and feel comfortable reiterating the legitimate reasons behind an employee’s compensation.

Expectations. At every position I have been at I attempt to train managers on defining and setting their expectations from Day 1 with their new employee. This is also one of my greatest pain points. How does an employee know what is expected of them if you do not say it? Did you hire a mind reader?

Purpose. Employees need to understand how their individual contributions help achieve the goals of the company. Employees need to understand the purpose of their jobs. Employers who have business plans that flow top down and bottom up, should have no problem defining this line of sight for each employee.

Trust in Management and Leadership. The individuals that represent the leaders of the company must be approachable, they must be honest , they must be transparent and do what they say they are gonna do. Employees who do not trust their management and leadership will do just enough to fly under the radar and will be focused on when the next shoe will drop and not the success of the company.

Safety and security. I’m not just talking about guns or violence in the workplace. I’m talking about workplaces where there is respect for the individual. Employers that allow mockery, drama, off-color jokes, bullying are creating a hostile work environment for their employees. The only thing the employee will be focused on is how long they have to wait for another job to come along to leave their current one. They won’t be focused on helping the company meet its goals.

If an employer does not actively ensure these basic tenets are being met via partnership with HR, they are setting themselves and their employees up for failure.

Got What It Takes to Hack It in HR?


HR isn’t for everyone. And truth be told, that’s just the way I want it. I believe there a lot of HR peeps who have what it takes to elevate this profession into a more respected business partner to the corporate world. These folks have a special and rare combination of knowledge and soft skills. These are the HR professionals that can not only hack it in HR but are leading the radical HR movement.

Here are the must-have competencies of a kick-ass HR professional:

  1. The ability to forego quick wins. As in life, in HR, nothing worth having comes easy. HR Professionals must possess the ability to delay gratification and work and toil towards the accomplishments that are hard-fought by winning over every layer of bureaucracy, decision-maker and stakeholder before seeing their ideas bear fruit.
  2. Emotional Intelligence (EI). This one is a non-negotiable. HR Professionals must possess a high EI factor. EI is said to be the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others, while harnessing those emotions and applying them to tasks such as problem solving. HR may be the only side of the business that gives permission to bring emotion into the workplace. A good HR professional has to be self-aware before they can counsel and advise others.
  3. The ability to stand-up for oneself and to push back when necessary. History’s most significant accomplishments were at inception some of the most radical and rejected ideas. HR professionals must be willing to stand up for their core beliefs, own their arguments, disagree when needed and fight for what they know is best for the business, even when it’s exhausting and would be easier and safer to relent.
  4. A somewhat obnoxious ability to interject oneself in business situations . So, no one invites you to the party. Invite yourself. Crash that party. Instead of nodding and going on your merry way when your manager says “We’ll keep you posted”, take yourself out of that reactive position and get all up in that grill. Ask questions, get a better understanding of the situation and offer solutions right then and there. Make your participation in employee relations issues and business problems a requirement. Instead of your  managers waiting until something escalates, they should be seeking you out at the onset.
  5. Super strong customer service skills. The world is your customer. Everyone in the world looking for their next best job. Your peers, your managers, your employees, your pain-in-the-ass IT team. They are all your customers. Even when the situation is negative and you have to deliver a negative message, leave that customer with a “wow” experience.
  6. Business acumen. HR professionals can no longer afford not to know what line of business they are in. HR professionals need to know their businesses’ services and products. An HR professional worth their salt should be able to perform a SWOT analysis of their business without breaking a sweat.
  7. A mastery of HR knowledge. During an interview for my first real HR job, the Director of HR asked me to recite to her several tenets of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Totally legit question for an HR Coordinator job, right. HR professionals need to know not only all of the directly and indirectly applicable Federal and State labor and employment laws but also how to apply them in any situation especially on the fly.
  8. Must question the old-timey HR ways of doing things. When the nature of work was as simple as you do your job and the company pays you and the balance is equalized, Personnel Administration did a really good job at the tactical work of HR payroll processing and hiring people. If we are indeed undergoing what some people call the new Industrial Revolution, HR Professionals must get off their ass and revolutionize the profession or the profession will die.
  9. Ability to live and operate in the gray. Humans are messy. And human situations are messy. Even though laws and regulations in the past may have dictated that we treat everyone the same, consistent, equal or whatever, there is simply no way to create one-size fits all solutions. HR professionals must be able to creatively solve issues while operating within the confines of the law.

In several weeks, DisruptHR will be holding an event in Raleigh, NC. I’m super excited to network with and learn from  some of these radical HR leaders who hopefully possess some or all of the competencies above.

HR Mix Tape


For those musically inclined, you may hear a song and relate it to your professional or personal life. In HR, there are days when the theme of Happy Days could be playing in my head or when circus music is on a never-ending rotation. Back in the day, we would make mix tapes for our friends, for road trips, for playing in our walkman, for the summer of 1990 and just any old reason we wanted to compile all of our favorite music on one medium.

For no good reason at all here is the 2016 HR Mix Tape Play list. I shall call it HR Jams.

  1. “Welcome to the Jungle”- Guns N’ Roses tale of LA’s dark side, is also a great tune to play on your way into the office especially during the week of a full moon.
  2. “People Are Strange”- The Doors. Perfectly captures the variety of human behaviors, actions and responses in the workplace that an HR professional will encounter on any given day.
  3. “Sussudio” – Phil Collin’s made-up song title reminds of me of silly business buzzphrases and office jargon such as  “human capital management”, “the optics of it”, “synergy”, “core competency”, and “corporate values”.
  4. The Bangles, “Manic Monday”. For dealing with the onslaught of Monday morning work bombs.
  5. “Gimme Some Money”- Spinal Tap. Above ALL else, employees work to be paid y’all.
  6. Black Eyed Peas, “Shut Up”- because God gave you 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason. IMO, effective workplaces are led by leaders who listen just as much, if not more, than they speak.
  7. Bruno Mars, “The Lazy Song”, some days are just dead in the water before they even begin.
  8. “Lean On Me”, Bill Withers. Having meaningful relationships in the workplace is a direct correlation to employee happiness. This song reminds me of that.
  9. Grateful Dead, “Touch of Grey”- because HR must and should operate in the grey.
  10. “California Love”, Tupac and Dr. Dre’s ode to California. Actually, this is the opposite about how I feel about managing the HR function in California, but there is no song to my knowledge titled, “California Hate”.

What songs would you add to the B side?