The Most Boring Answers to the Question “What Does HR Do?”

bored at workI was poking around the internet recently and, as inevitably happens, I fell down a rabbit hole. It started with a review of numerous HR job postings which are always amusing; is there seriously a human being out there who craves the job title Human Resources Point Person?  Then I began to gather the various and myriad answers supplied by business advisors, consultants, and lawyers when they respond to the query “why do we need an HR staff? What will they do?”

So, because I care, I have brought together some of the absolutely most BORING “things that HR people do.”

  • implement absence management (sickness) programs to control costs
  • keep internal HR policies and employee handbooks up to date
  • provide the necessary supporting paperwork for the recruitment process
  • enter employee data into the payroll system
  • order computers
  • manage employee lockers
  • prepare documents for local authorities
  • compile and type reports from employment records
  • record supervisory reports on ability (…what does this even mean????)

As one author on Inc. so lovingly pointed out “people often confuse the terms office manager and HR manager.” Well…yeah. If that’s the kind of stuff HR does.

But…let’s hold on a minute.

I have, over the course of my illustrious HR career, done every one of those things. With the exception of “record supervisory reports on ability” Seriously…wtf is that?

Granted, the “compiling and typing of reports from employment records” was circa 1991 when, believe it or not, we had stacks of paper and used typewriters to put #HRData into some sort of format pretty enough to distribute to the C-Suite. Yup; as an exempt HR professional I stored data in Lotus 1-2-3. ran some additional manual calculations, and then prepared monthly, quarterly and annual reports on an honest-to-baby-Jesus typewriter.

I’ve ordered computers and managed locker inventory (across a campus no less) while holding a Director role. Locker inventory was actually somewhat entertaining. On an annual basis, after posting notices stating “unclaimed and unassigned lockers, even if they have locks, will be opened by the HR/Security Department on xx date,” my team got to go on a locker opening adventure. Wielding bolt cutters in a 21st century nod to Carrie Nation we descended upon both the women’s and men’s locker rooms in a maniacal pre-menopausal cleaning frenzy. Smelly shoes, half-used sticks of deodorant, crusty dinner plates and many (many!) bags of weed were recovered and relegated to the trash bins.

Fun times.

Boring? Perhaps. Was it changing the world of work? Was it innovative and disruptive and generating calculable ROI? Probably not. But it had to be done so I rallied the troops and we did it.

And the next day I still sat in the weekly Executive Leadership team meeting. I still attended the quarterly meetings of the Board of Directors and sat on the Board’s Personnel Committee. I still had P & L responsibility and financial objectives I had to meet in alignment with the numerous people/talent related goals outlined in the strategic plan for which I was accountable not only to the CEO but also to the Board.

Were we, as an HR team, agile, data-driven and business integrated? You bet.

Sometimes though, especially in small/mid-sized businesses, shit just needs to get done. Sometimes she who sports the moniker “HR Manager” still has to do the “Office Manager” duties.

Is it necessary? It often is.

Is it boring? Never.

Plus you may get to flush a huge bag of herbal refreshment down the toilet. High fun times indeed.

 

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