HR is Not the Bad Guy Behind Unemployment
I'm responding to a letter titled HR Hurts the Unemployed, Says Out-of-Work Reader, written by William McMullin (May issue). Let me start by expressing empathy for McMullin and any long-term unemployed. No HR theory or business practice that I express here will make anyone feel "grateful ... this winter when ... [the] heat was off for half of it," as he writes.
There is no excuse for leaving unemployed and the long-term unemployed out of the talent pool. I am going to suggest to you, without taking a poll, that HR professionals don't support this at all. It is not in the best interest of HR, tasked with providing companies with the best talent, to shrink its candidate pools for arbitrary reasons.
To lay this issue at the feet of HR is to not really understand the role of HR in most, if not all, organizations. HR serves primarily as an adviser to the CEO, board or whatever structure the company has. We, as HR professionals, provide the CEO with options around the decisions that she/he want to make concerning a specific issue.
Our secondary role is to provide strategic plans around all human capital-related issues. We provide the CEO with salary projections, benefits analyses and changes in workplace policy, all designed to ensure the firm ... has the right people, in the right places, doing the right things. This approach is similar to the CFO and the finance department. In the end, if the organization took a stance that it would not consider the long-term unemployed, I can assure you it was against the advice and strategic thinking of the CHRO.
Lastly, HR is just as much a profession as environmental law and any other vocation. Let's examine what HR is responsible for in an organization and you decide if it is a relevant profession. HR is responsible for creating the organization's total rewards program. That includes every employee's salary, any merit increases, benefits such as health insurance, paid-time-off and any non-compensatory benefits, such as flexible work time. HR is charged with ensuring employers follow federal, state and local employment laws. Seattle just enacted a $15/hour minimum wage. The federal government just codified "Obamacare." HR must ensure its organizations follow those laws. HR is in charge of talent management. That includes everything from how many employees the company should have, how we recruit candidates, how candidates are introduced to the company, how we keep new hires, what type of training and development should be provided to each employee, how we evaluate employee performance, what method of discipline we use for non-performers, etc. These are just the major arenas that HR has to do battle in on a daily basis.
McMullin experienced the games that are played all the time in corporate America. It wouldn't have mattered if he was working or not. There are shenanigans all the time in the world of American business. From his position, he has neither the mood nor desire to play.
(Added note: My views and opinions are my own and I do not speak for Morton College or anyone in the Illinois Community College system.)
Associate Director of Human Resources