This objectionable view of HR was pointed out by a widely-read consultant/speaker colleague, Jan van der Hoop a day or so ago. Frankly I would have expected a different approach from Rutgers University’s Richard Beatty. Talk about pandering to your audience’s prejudices instead of trying to educate or solve the problem.. Even allowing for editorial liberties with the message, inadvertent or otherwise, this speech is unacceptable.
I’ll ignore the obvious confusion of the terms ’employee satisfaction,’ which we pretty much all know by now doesn’t relate directly to performance and ‘engagement,’ which does. I’ll even ignore the fact that he contradicts himself in several statements, some on this very issue.
However, if this was actually said as quoted, Beatty is making a ridiculous generalization: "HR wants to treat most employees the same way, and they spend considerable time trying to defend or fix poor performers, taking on the St. Bernard role," he said. "Low turnover isn’t necessarily a good thing. Think about where you might want to disinvest." Well, Dr. Beatty, there isn’t any “HR” in this sense. There are a whole lot of individuals with varying ranges of skills and opinions. And in case you haven’t looked, there are tons of HR practitioners out there who do not fit this stereotype.
I’m first to agree that HR departments need to invest more and bring in more people to work as HR staff who can develop better analytics and metrics. I certainly support rotating a percentage of other executives through the HR function both to learn and bring in new ideas and approaches – not a bad idea for most functions. To suggest that HR isn’t making an effort at the transition to a modern understanding of what’s required of it is just patently missing what’s happening in the field. Maybe it isn’t happening fast enough, but not for lack of discussion or attention from HR. Insults aren’t likely to help as any good coach knows and practices. Apparently your program doesn’t follow the path of ‘find what’s right and encourage more of it.’ I realize that doesn’t make for as good press coverage, but really..
Maybe this is a speech you hope will be a further wake-up call to HR. or maybe, as another of my colleagues suggested, it’s an “Ann Coulter-type attempt” to garner attention by being insultingly outrageous. Whichever, one has to ask, isn’t it remarkable that someone who’s been training HR leaders for years finds they are so entirely hopeless? Whose fault would that be really – your students. or their professor?
Anyway, I’m pleased you answered my email suggesting we could debate with a response of basically ‘bring it on.’ But I also note you haven’t responded to my request for more details, including what you actually said. If I’ve misconstrued, please feel free to enlighten me. While waiting I’ve read several more polite responses suggesting you must have a point somewhere, that where there’s smoke there’s fire. I’m not so accepting. If professionals in the field, in particular, continue to bad-mouth it in such a blanket, unthinking way, how can we ever expect to raise HR to the status it deserves? I’m not sure an unbalanced attack deserves any less in return.