Human Resources Needs Business People


Ed Newman is a Human Resources and Talent Management executive who donated to #movemberthon, which makes him today’s guest blogger. You can find him at Accidental Entrepreneur.


When I started my career, I worked in personnel. I was there in 1989 when we changed our name to Human Resources in order to advance the profession and to become ‘strategic business partners’.

More than 20 years later one thing has remained constant—the criticism, bashing, and rants about how nonstrategic HR can be. There are so many reasons for this conundrum, but I am going to focus in on one that I think is at the crux.

There are too many people in our profession who got into HR because they like working with people. If that is why you got into HR, please get out. The field of Human Resources needs business people.

Let’s look at the difference between the two with the following scenario:

A manager comes to HR with a request to terminate Joe Employee.

People person:

  • First Impulse: Wow, Joe is a nice guy with a family. This will be a huge impact on him. I really hope we won’t have to fire him. That would be so sad.
  • Discussion: Have you documented Joe’s performance problems?  How many times have you counseled him?  Is he over 40?
  • Possible Outcome: Give the manager detailed instructions on the implementation of a Performance Improvement Plan, and scheduled a follow-up appointment in 3 weeks to check status.  If no improvement, a plan will be developed to terminate Joe in accordance with company policy.

Business person:

  • First Impulse: Wow, we have an employee who is negatively impacting the business.  I hope we’re not losing customers. That would be bad.
  • Discussion: How big is the impact? Do we need to take immediate action?  We have made a big investment in hiring Joe, is there anyway to salvage this?  Can we put him in a different role where he can add value?
  • Possible Outcome: Immediately removed Joe from his current role and counseled him on one or two potential directions he can pursue within the company.  If none of those options work, there is a plan established to exit Joe from the company while treating him well, providing him with support to land on his feet.  Because treating people well makes good business sense, not because the HR policy says so.

I am not saying you should hate people if you work in HR. I like people. It’s just not the reason I followed a career in HR. You should choose Human Resources because you like business.

My wife Robin absolutely loves dogs. We have three. She could never ever be a veterinarian because she could not handle the emotional load of dealing with sick animals and, god forbid, having to put them down.

If you are in HR, you better be ready to deal with some sick/crazy people and sometimes you will even have to crush their dreams and put them down (well…terminate them).

So I ask—Are you a people person or a business person? And if you’re a people person, why are you still in HR?

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