Punk Rock HR Question: Students, Likability, & The Future of HR


A question from a student of Human Resources.

For the record, I’m speaking to HR students at SHRM10 in San Diego. I still don’t know what I will say.

Hey Laurie,

This has been bugging me for awhile, and you seem like the kind of person who’d know something about this.  I’m currently a student, majoring in HR.  Whenever I tell someone this, they get this weird look on their face, and sometimes even flat out say “Why?  You hate people.”  Okay, I’ll admit I’m not the most social person, and I don’t go work actively trying to be BFFs with everyone in the office.  I don’t like schmoozing people, and I hate office fakery and other various forms of BS.  But I do have a strong sense of right and wrong and fair and unfair, and I thrive under the weight of legalese and sifting through resumes and reading whether or not someone is trying to smooth over a shaky past in an interview.

I don’t know what the various “HR stereotypes” are, but is everyone right? Am I completely unsuited for Human Resources?

My good friend, you are perfectly suited to Human Resources in the 1980s and 1990s; however, the future HR has nothing to do with interviews, office politics, and legalese.

I’ve written about this before, but I believe that smart companies are on a trajectory towards efficiency and standardization. They are reinventing HR in the name of reducing costs, and here is what’s happening.

  • Compliance issues are moving to legal,
  • employment branding becomes a function of marketing,
  • and recruiting is the foremost responsibility of line managers who are expected to stay current in their industry and source from their own social communities. They are partnered with recruitment advisors to complete the internal hiring process.

The traditional HR generalist will move from all things ‘human resources’ to a professional advisor, coach, and project manager who focuses on connecting the business leader to the people-related service provider. There will be no more talk of advocacy for employees in the workforce because employees will all be treated like temporary workers and independent contractors. The management of benefits and compensation plans will continue to be outsourced. If some form of public healthcare is offered to American workers, most organizations will get out of the business of underwriting healthcare and they will focus on profitability. (Can you blame them?)

So it doesn’t matter if you hate people or not. It doesn’t matter if you thrive on legalese. That part of HR has been irrelevant for 15 years.

The future of HR is evolving, so you have two options: get some real skills (law degree, experience in auditing, internship in operations or marketing) or get ready to take your HR expertise and become a blogger in about 12 years.

I’d recommend a law degree.

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