I saw a tweet from a #sxswi attendee.

If you can’t read the tweet, I will paraphrase it. Gary Vaynerchuk is quoted as saying that HR used to be at the bottom, and now it’s on top. Depending on who’s running that HR department, that tweet can mean a lot of different things!

I like how people are bullish on HR — especially HR consulting firms like Deloitte and Mercer. (I like how some companies pay for sponsored content that makes them look fair and balanced, too.) We’re in such a hype-cycle, aren’t we? It’s all about HR data and more data. Gary Vee believes HR is awesome. Jack Welch believes it, too. Heck, I want to believe it!

Except when I tell people under 30 that I work in HR, they ask me, “Who that?”

When I explain HR — it’s the people who hire you and make you get paid — they go, “Oh, yeah, okay.”

Then they either a) black out or b) have horror stories about trying to get a job during the recession.

So while some people who profit from HR believe that the industry is at the top of its game, the rest of us are fighting for relevancy and respect. If anything, we just don’t want to be a punchline in an episode of The Mindy Project.

If you want further proof of how little people think of human resources, go to Urban Dictionary and look at the definition of HR and human resources.

The top definition is nearly a decade old, but it feels like it could have been written today.

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Pretty good. Feels right.

And I like this one because it shows that HR can be political!

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HR can overcome its PR crisis, but I’m not sure it happens from outsiders on stage at #sxswi. I think human resources is local. You go block by block, person by person, and make the case that you’re doing important work on behalf of your constituents.

Am I nuts?

What do you think?

Why does everyone hate HR? Join the movement to fix that. Download the new e-book, “I Am HR.” ow.ly/xIRbQ Click to tweet.


  1. Laurie – I agree. I know some people who consider HR a “necessary evil.” I agree with your last statement; “HR is local.” We aren’t the police but rather a place where employees can go to get things done. Building HR from the inside out whether that is networking or communicating the benefits of HR to non-HR folks I believe is essential to gaining that respect.

  2. Laurie,

    I agree that HR has a bad rap (especially in the younger generations) and going for a large scale megaphone approach won’t change perspective. HR tried to change their perspective internally a few years ago with the change to a Business Partner model and the hype about “having a seat at the table”.

    I’m not sure a title change or a “seat at the table” is enough to properly convey the truth about what HR is, how it effects the business, and what role it has in individual successes.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. I think you are right, the best work is done locally, block by block, person by person. And I think you are nuts, which is why I like you so much.

  4. The way I’ve heard it from people is this: HR serves the company, not the employees. That, and “if you want to help people, don’t work in HR.”

    As a result, most people don’t trust HR, and think they need to have their guard up to justify their requests or risk hurting themselves. =/

  5. Laurie. Great post (as always). I’m not in HR (never was) but during my decade as a Workforce Planner (I’m not that either anymore) I did more & more work with HR. I met some great operators along the way, both virtually and in real life but most of my transactions with HR were frustrating. In reflection I penned a piece via Peak Jobs News titled ‘Is HR a bullshit job’ which is heavily influenced by the work of David Graeber. After writing some 1200 pieces for PJN that HR blog is my number 1 read article!
    I’m not a HR knocker, my new company doesn’t even have HR but there is probably something in that data point worthy of reflection.

  6. Then why do managers come to me and ask for help. “Gina, what’s up with our culture, our morale, our turnover? What can we do better as in emoloyee retention and morale lifting?! How can I find the needle in a haystack? Help me G”! :/ signed, HR CATBERT Nice post Laurie, as always! #widelegsforever.

  7. Your “block to block, person to person” method is on target. I used to have an audio cassette of Henry Rollins’ Get In the Van. In it he described spending an entire week putting up flyers around Huntington and Newport to advertise Black Flag shows. Meeting all kinds of people along the way and getting them on board with the mission to promote the show. Sometimes after a week all they had was a bad sunburn to show for their efforts. If they were lucky, maybe thirty people would show up for the show. But then fifty would show up the next time. Then eighty and so on.

    It takes patience, persistence, discipline to get a seat at the grown-up table. And once you’re there you better provide some value fairly quickly or you’ll be back at the folded card table with the kids flinging mashed potatoes at you in no time flat.

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