Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Gifts Do You Bring to HR?

I’ve been reading a lot this week about the job market and hiring practices and how to pick the best employees and avoid the worst. And all of this has got me thinking about gifts.

Not gifts that you get for birthdays and special holidays, but the gifts you’re born with. Like mathematical gifts, or the gift of gab, or the gift of empathy, or what have you.

And the reason I’ve been thinking about this is that it seems to me that sometimes we are reluctant to recognize gifts and their importance in doing a bang-up job.

Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, authors of Now, Discover Your Strengths get the idea of gifts. They call them “talents,” but same difference. The point is that all of us have the ability to naturally do some things better than some other things, and these abilities are ours to discover and development, but they can’t be manufactured.

In particular, I’ve been thinking about this concept in relation to HR, because it seems to me that there are still far too many people who think that anybody can do HR, and it’s just not true.

I know because I went through a string of HR personnel who were terrible at it. They either lacked the detail orientation, or the critical thinking skills, or the analytical skills, or the head for employment law concepts, or something. And these were smart people.  And it wasn’t until I started complaining to a wiser friend of mine about some task the most-recent hire had been unable to perform—“I don’t understand why _____ can’t get this right. It’s so simple!”—and my friend saying, “I don’t know Crystal, its sounds complicated to me” (and this man was a veteran leadership trainer studying for his PhD) that the light bulb went off.  Yes, the task was easy for me, because of my abilities. Oh …

And that’s when I started paying real close attention to traits, even testing for them during the hiring process. And after that, I started hiring people who were right for HR.

So what am I saying? I’m saying two things. First, I completely agree with Buckingham and Clifton when they write that it is not true that anyone can learn to be competent in anything. Second, if you’re in HR and do it well, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s an accident. It’s not. 

Which isn’t to say that people who try their hand at HR and aren’t very good at it can’t do other things fabulously well. They probably can. As I said, everyone has abilities. But it’s completely false to assert that because way too many people fall into HR and do “okay,” anybody can do it really well. Nope. As with most anything, these guys just make it look easy.

So, what are your HR gifts? 

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