Category Archives: Perception of HR

A Surprisingly Common Misconception of HR

Sandy Arseneault, CHRP

Sandy Arseneault, CHRP

For those of you also working in the Human Resources (HR) profession, I’m curious to know if you’ve come across the same surprisingly common misconception when explaining what we really do for a living – unless your job, in fact, is to fire people all day long*.

One story in particular comes to mind:

In my final semester at Kwantlen University I was tasked with writing a research paper for an Organizational Development class.  The topic: Organizational culture.  With a new connection to a local IT management company, I decided to reach out to the firm’s Operations Lead. For the sake of this article, let’s call him Jake.  After a quick introduction, Jake and I proceeded to discuss the business’ company culture and how it is modeled for employees in order to drive change and improve performance.  By the end, I knew I had some great points to write a solid paper.

But then (and I have to laugh) before I knew it, the interview took a turn.  After discussing what an organizational culture is and how it benefits the workplace, Jake asked me why I want to work in HR “given the reputation it has”.  Now, I don’t know how you would have reacted to this question but I became seriously confused – haha!  I took a minute to respond but soon decided to explore his query instead. So, I asked: “What sort of reputation does HR have?”  His response: “Around here, employees are scared of HR.  When someone from HR visits our facility it’s because someone is getting fired. Otherwise, we don’t really see them around.”  Now, as an emerging Human Resources Professional, and someone who is very passionate about improving the ’employee experience’ I felt it was necessary to ‘clear the air’.

I am a firm believer that Human Resources Management (HRM) is an important, strategic partnership used to help achieve future business goals.  It is not only responsible for developing, implementing and evaluating programs or initiatives but also responsible for organizational leadership and culture.  So, I asked the following questions:

  1. How does the organization engage its workforce?
  2. How is performance evaluated (formally vs. informally?
  3. Does the organization have any health or wellness programs?
  4. How are employees recognized or rewarded for a job well done?
  5. Are employees asked whether or not they are happy with their compensation?
  6. Does the organization offer any perks that are unusual, creative or different from other offices?

After answering each question (all positives) Jake quickly realized that HR was more than just the ‘Career Grim Reaper’.  In fact, the company’s HR department contributed a great deal to successful employee relations initiatives, including reward, recognition and continuing education.

That day, I was surprised to learn what “Human Resources” looked like to someone else.  Since then, I have made it a point to shatter their misconception and explain the real notion behind HR and how it contributes to an organization’s and employee’s success.  From friends and family to colleagues and potential network connections, I love sharing my passionate views of HR because I am proud of what I do. I hope more people can learn to appreciate the true value of Human Resources Management and its implementation in the workplace.

* If your job really is to fire people all day long, send me a message – I would love to pick your brain!