15 December 2010

The Human Element

Two finals tomorrow: Leadership and Human Capital Management.  Since my Leadership class was the inspiration for my renewed enthusiasm for blogging, I think I'll take on the HR class tonight.

I have a love/hate relationship with Human Resources.  On the one hand, I truly feel like people are the most valuable asset any organization has--that a company can have great products or super-advanced technology or a dynamic business model, but it is the people who make all those things possible.  I believe that a strong focus on and strategy for identifying, attracting, retaining, and motivating top talent is the lifeblood of a quality organization.  I stand beside the idea that culture is crucial, and that people will work harder for a cause than for a buck.  And last but not least, I personally derive both energy and satisfaction from working with people.

These advantages, however, come in sharp contrast with the disappointing reality of what it means to be an HR professional in many companies.  Rather than being a primary influence in organizational strategy, HR is forced to constantly defend its "place at the table"-- which results in a certain defensiveness that HR "adds value to the company".  (If you have to bring it up, then there are definitively people who don't believe it.)  Instead of having valuable interactions with organizational movers and shakers, HR is far too often relegated to transactional work-- a necessary evil, but enervating and potentially demoralizing.  Finally, (and this probably says more about me personally than about HR in general), it rubs me the wrong way that HR recruiters usually frame their highest aspiration as being an assistant to increasingly senior-level Business Partners.

The dual nature of my feelings for HR are mirrored in my thoughts about the class (and not surprisingly, in my internship search)-- sort of a Jekyll and Hyde reaction depending on my perception of the day's topic.  Org. behavior and design? Excellent.  Strategy?  Love it.  Union avoidance? Ugh.

And with that, stay tuned for the next episode of "Confessions of a Hesitant HR Major".  Sorry for the drama.
P.S. The term "human capital" is awesome.

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