mushroom coffee

The new trend in human resources and recruiting is to harken back to simpler times. People say that HR has become cluttered and over-engineered, and it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

I don’t disagree at all. When it takes two systems and five people to process one form — and you still need to send a paper copy to Iron Mountain — it’s tough to fight against the rising tide of simplification and automation.

Let’s not pretend that complexity is a recent condition of your human resources department, however. Long before HR, the act of hiring and employing people was difficult. It’s never been easy or straightforward to identify talent, onboard people, manage them, pay them, insure them, develop them, provide them with opportunities, and offboard them at the appropriate time.

I’m not sure why it’s hard. You can blame governments or unions. You can blame attorneys or the human psyche. You can blame executives and bosses who don’t pay people fairly and create unsafe working conditions, which drives a greater need for oversight and compliance.

(Just don’t blame your local HR lady who’s there to help.)

And if you do blame your local HR lady, maybe you can empower her to change. The first step is to trust that she has the capability to think creatively and innovatively about the current state of the organization. If she doesn’t, why does she work for you? I would start by asking her to be open and honest about what’s working and what’s failing on her watch.

(There are low-risk ways to do this. I know a few consultants (cough cough) who can facilitate this conversation.)

Although she oversees a process that may feel like a big mess, I believe your local HR lady has the intellectual curiosity and desire to focus on process improvement and simplicity.

I would give your local HR lady some headcount, too. Ask her to hire a data analyst or even a paid intern to examine systems and processes. Grant your HR team the authority to identify risks and threats that emanate from bad organizational behaviors. Ask for a plan to address those issues, too.

(That’s a pretty good first step. You will be surprised and impressed with what she does!)

I also think it’s important to acknowledge that managing a labor force is never easy. Nothing good is ever easy, by the way. You work at continually improving your marriage. When you have a family, you quickly learn that perfect is the enemy of good. Focus on “Good HR” instead of a fake version of great HR that doesn’t exist anywhere. You will see that your version of “good” probably supersedes most HR departments and personnel practices out there.

So if you keep your misty water-colored memories in check — and you tune out the noise from consultants who profit from the collapse of the modern HR department — you might just find that your local HR lady can change the landscape of your company, your culture and your employment practices.

Why does everyone hate HR? Join the movement to fix that. Download, “I Am HR.” Click to tweet.