The Problem With Human Resources Today: No Humans

If there is one subject that just gets in my craw when I get into discussions with someone it’s this one. The arguments normally coalesce around one theme: The bureaucracy, and the defense of that bureaucracy – for the bureaucracy’s sake.

The term human resources always bothered me. What was wrong with the term “Personnel?” Was that not a better descriptor than the now accepted “HR” acronym? Does HR actually deploy resources to departments as it sees fit? Or does it merely get assigned the task of “filtering” what another department head desires?

In a world of extraordinary competition for talent (and yes I regard employee’s as talent) one would think the first job of some department labeled HR would be to seek the best of the best – as best it could. However that seems far from anything that resembles HR today.

Case in point: Just who in their right mind would put as a prerequisite for a position in sales the requirement of a degree to apply? Furthermore, knowing all the while that any applicant submitting a resume will inevitably have their resume put through some computer scanner that will kick it into the circular trash file before it is even had a chance to be seen by a human. What might be just as idiotic is the management that knowingly allows it to take place.

Whenever I talk to someone in charge of a company of any size I ask this question to put front and center just how much they’re not paying attention to details. Regardless of how much they like to tell me they are. It goes something like this…

“If you had the opportunity to hire a salesperson with a track record of stellar performance across multiple industries, with a track record of opening new markets that were before unrealized which later became those industries most profitable along with much more; would you like to at least interview them?”

The answer 10 out of 10 times comes back; “Of course! I would be nuts not too.”

That’s when I follow-up with; “Well you know who I am and my record, and that’s just touching the surface of my career as you know. However you would never have the chance to interview me or someone like me based on your process for applicants to apply to your company. I don’t have a degree, and many like myself don’t either. Yet you’ll put out in your Help Wanted pitch (or your HR will) some variant form or declaration of “If No degree – You Need Not apply.”

Sales is the (and I mean THE!) most important department in any company. Without sales, you don’t have a company. Period. So why in the world would anyone shut the door by means of an algorithm access to that talent?

If the process now is for humans whether HR or the management they report to allows the process of selecting human capital (or talent) by way of machines and algorithms. Then why is there a need for a department of “Human Resources” in the first place? Could not that department itself be replaced with the machines they employ?

If HR wants to live up to its title. It had better start actively pursuing real talent by means of interviewing and looking over resumes that fit the need of the company themselves rather that subjecting them to fit into an algorithm. Far too many these days in HR think it’s beneath them to subject themselves to this. (the horror!) Which only exacerbates the problem of acquiring talent.

If HR is allowed to continue the practice of computers picking the talent – why does one need a dedicated department for HR at all? Because if history is a guide. No significant mover in the coveted Fortune 500® ever promoted the head of the HR department to CEO.

I wonder if management uses an algorithm for that choice. Just Saying.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr