HR is not about HR

angryI have a feeling that this post will displease some HR pros but I am going to go ahead and voice my views anyway. After all, isn’t this the purpose of the blog? Hence, despite knowing that Dave Ulrich has an insane number of followers, I am going to come out and say it. Any sentence that starts with “HR is not about HR” shoots blood right to my head and makes it want to explode. I have yet to come across any professional apart from one in HR write or say a sentence more absurd than this. Have you ever heard – Marketing is not about marketing; finance is not about finance or non-profit organizations are not about non-profit organizations. Really, what does this sentence even mean?

Last week, Dave Ulrich tweeted – ‘HR is not about HR – it’s about what value we create from doing #HR. This could be value for the employee, the customer, it could be the manager or it could be the community.” Within 24 hours, this tweet received 390 likes, 175 retweets and 17 responses (including one from me). I was confused, dismayed, sad and happy – all at once. I am glad that it didn’t hit a 1000+ retweets for that would have crushed my hope in this profession.

Now that I’ve vented, let me explain my stand. For far too long, we have found excuses to avoid running HR as we would any other business. To do so would mean that HR professionals finally be held accountable to demonstrate value and not leave it to good faith and intentions. The HR is not about HR phrase has been quoted as a preamble to avoid demonstrating this very value. Also, notice how the tweet mentions many sets of people for who we must demonstrate value but misses mentioning the employer, company or organization, who in my opinion is just as important a stakeholder.

Let’s debate what happens if HR is about HR? We would be a bunch of selfish brats always trying to prove ourselves better than every other department.

  1. We would work harder, smarter and faster.
  2. We would spend more time analyzing competition and customers.
  3. We would find innovative ways to push ourselves forward.
  4. We would talk about our profession in better light; give it the publicity that it deserves.
  5. We’d set big hairy measurable goals and work relentlessly to achieve them to prove that we are second to none.

Our job/core responsibility is to make the workspace a better place for employees enabling them do more and perform better. Hence, doing things that made ‘HR about HR’ (listed above) would translate into a win for both employees and the employer. Quick question – how many non-HR folks really believe that HR delivers any value? Do the employees really think you are useful or required?

A deed benefit is that we would stop whining as much and be a little more proud of what we so. More people would aspire to be an HR professional. In today’s scenario, how many school-going teenagers quote HR as their line of interest? From where I stand, HR being about HR looks like an absolute win. We’d finally have good reason to run HR like any other department. We’ll be declaring quarterly results and demonstrating success. Fewer friends would laugh when we tell them we work in “HR”.

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world to live in?


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