Human Resources: Friend or Foe?

Posted: May 1, 2023

This week's blog is written by Sarah Dierkes, Masters of Human Resource Management (MHRM) student and current ECS Graduate Assistant.

The Human Resources (HR) function tends to have a bad reputation in the workplace. Whether it be that “all HR does is hire and fire people” or that they value “policies over people,” many people have strong opinions about the function. As someone who has a bachelors in HR and is now pursuing a masters in HR, I’m here to try to squash some of these stigmas and explain the real purpose of the profession.

Starting with the misunderstanding that “all HR does is hire and fire people,” let’s explore what HR actually does. Because the profession is responsible for so much, it’s typically split into 3 categories: HR Business Partners (HRBPs), HR Generalists, and HR Specialists. Usually, every business unit has their own HRBP that they reach out to with questions/concerns. HRBPs are essentially the liaison between the unit they support and the rest of the company. HR Generalists, as the name might imply, work on a wide range of tasks and typically do more high-level work whereas HR Specialists are the ones who get into the finer details of things. HR Specialists typically focus on one of eight possible specialties: Talent Acquisition, Employee & Labor Relations, Performance Management, Compensation & Benefits, Learning & Development, HR Information Systems, DE&I, and Safety & Compliance. So, all this to say that contrary to popular belief, HR does actually do more than just “hire and fire people.”

Now let’s shift gears to the idea that HR values “policies over people.” While all HR Professionals have their own philosophy, personally I believe that the purpose of HR is to support employees to the extent that the company allows. Because people are a company’s greatest asset, it is in the company’s best interest to keep its employees happy. This can be a bit complicated at times because, at the end of the day, HR Professionals are employed by the company and have to look out for its best interests. Circling back to the original topic of valuing policies over people, the reality is that the policies are in place for the people (I know, that sounds very HR but bear with me here). Without a set of policies in place, there’s no way to ensure people are being treated consistently across the company. So really, policies are your friend.

By this point, hopefully you’ve learned a little more about HR and the purpose of the profession. If you’re curious and want to read more, I suggest checking out some of these articles:

"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” - Michael Jordan

Category: On the Job