Sunday, December 04, 2005

Confession of an HR Manager

It's been 1½ year since I joined WebPlains, during this time I have seen, talked and meet with a lot of HR Professionals. Most of them were handling the recruitment function for there respective organizations. Most of them were plain English speaking crap. Some were intelligent and very few were shockingly genius. All of them were frustrated.

In our age and today's market conditions I think this statement can be made just about any function in an organization be it HR, or finance or Marketing or Even Software Programming J. But I found a fundamental difference here. Most of the people in function blame HR for bad policy making and stuff. Whom does HR blame?

Theoretically HR's job is to Hire bright people , ensure they get right environment to work and help functional heads to do a fair evaluation of there performance . In short to manage Human Capital . So much of HR Crap !

I can bet this definition is written by some PR Agencies and it is not remotely associated with the actual job of an HR Professional. Based on my experience I can say that after Marketing , HR is the most hated group in a organization . HR is another thankless job . like the way I was intrigued by the people's attitude toward sales and discussed it in my previous posting here I enquired about the cause of this hidden resentment toward HR .

My quest for answer took me to a friend of mine. An energetic young man in his late thirties , working as a HR head of leading IT firm .his colleague call him "SAGE" .

when I discussed it with him he smiled and said " It's a dirty secret of business world . why do you want to know it ? " when I insisted he said that " I will tell you my work history and that will explain a lot of things " so we decided to meet on weekend for coffee at barista near Signature Tower, Gurgaon .

what he told me was really insight full . I don't want to damp the impact of his narration so I am trying to produce his account as it is for you in First person. here is his Story in his own words ,which is perhaps the story Evolution of HR in India .Read on…...

" I am an MBA in Social works from a B Grade Business School and I have around 12 years of experience in this domain .In initial years of my work life I used to work in a Big MNC manufacturing firm in Gurgaon. Over there management's expectation from HR Deptt was fairly limited . We were called personnel department . Our job was mostly of paper work . leave application tracking, payroll , group insurance and maintaining cordial relation with Union etc .fairly routine work . given my middle class background I was happy doing that. I was not involved in core group of company and I didn't harbor any illusion of shaping the destiny of company . truth of the situation was that I needed company more than company needed me .

Than there was a fad of Quality enhancement in my company suddenly core team was highly quality conscious and every where you began to hear terms like " kaizen , poke yoke , Six Sigma , TQM , ISO etc . people in-general were happy with the initiatives . some said its because we really want to be known as a quality manufacturer of auto components . some said its because of the teaching of some spiritual guru of whom our CEO was a disciple .

Some of my Sr. colleague who were eternal skeptic dismissed the whole idea of Quality and working condition enhancement as just another way to bring business . they said that our company want to have some business from the Japanese and Korean companies and these companies are very strict about the work culture and working conditions of there vendors . there stance was that it is not because our CEO wake up one fine day and realize that his employees are working in a filthy factory so it needs to be clean , prime motivation is to bag the order and collect the money. All this talks of loving your employee are absolute hogwash

I shrugged and dismissed that argument thinking that because these guys were working in bad conditions for past 30 years so this sudden change of culture might be a shock . it may be looking too good to be true so these guys are skeptical. After all you can't change much after a certain age . I should focus on younger workforce and ensure there buy-in for this projects .

I did it as a crusade and it was a success . but after a while the company fired a good lot of them and decide to fill the posts with temp workers . I was shocked an year back same core team was making a lot of noise about Employee being there extended family and crap . now even when all of the soon –to be - fired guys were doing there work properly they need to pushed out of the door.

I checked with a senior manager he said " Actually competition is brutal margins are wafer thin, so too increase our unit's profit we need to cut the operational cost . and the temp firm is providing the same set of workforce for 60 % of cost . "

I said "Workforce ?? its sounds too mechanical. we are talking about real living people here. who come to work here daily . how can you tell them the news ? and specially when we are still in profit . only margin is suffering because of market conditions . for god sake they are our extended family !! "

Manager smiled and patted on my shoulder "You believe that crap ? I thought you are much smarter than that " .

Yes I should have been smarter than that . I should know that Sr. Management's incentive depends on how much profit they show on quarterly basis . and buy this 40% saving there will be a 20% jump in profit and CEO will get a huge bonus . its all in numbers .

I did the bad work of breaking the news . it was terrible . it sucks!! there were some middle age workers who were there from past 20 years and they were so much part of this place that I can't even think of the factory without them and now I have to tell them to get lost . so that bloody CEO can have his annual bonus . To my great surprise episode went with a little agitation and lot of mourning . since that day everybody in plant was living in fear . Fear of being the next casualty of CEO s bonus . I was disillusioned . Job lost it's charm and I started looking for other options .

During My MBA I had done a project on " Managing a Diverse ,Cross Cultural Workforce " . somehow HR head of upcoming BPO firm noticed that in my CV . So in spite of my Manufacturing Industry background they gave me a job of Sr. Recruitment Executive . I was happy again . I thought that it's a new economy company , a knowledge economy firm . we all call each other buy there first name . we all are equal . it's a good place to be . it's not like my previous firm .

I was an idiot. This illusion lasted only for a week . after my induction and orientation course in BPO firm . my first assignment was to hire Cust. Support Exe. For a process which was being shifted to India . I got two set of envelopes in my cubicle . One was from Sales team in Head Quarter it contained details of process and client requirements and other envelop was containing Hiring guideline it was from our office.

Now if you want to understand the real meaning and philosophies of a BPO firm you should look at there hiring guidelines .

  • If the candidate is exceptionally intelligent or qualified , don't hire him
  • If the candidate is speaking good English and he look like a " good for nothing "bum hire him .
  • If candidate is a bit energetic and analytic and have many interest . Avoid hiring them as they will eventually get bored and will leave
  • While choosing among females prefer Single girl over married women and Outsider girl over Local girl.
  • While structuring teams ensure there is a proper sex ratio . make a point to put a single girl in the team of married guys .

I very well understood the reasons behind these guidelines but still I didn't expect them to written in Black & White . Needless to say I didn't lasted there for long . I stayed there for few years . I watched how bright young fresher were recruited in chunks. Stuffed in pigeon hole like chairs with a headset and do a grunt work and consider it a career . I did the bad work of designing the advertisements which claimed that " Join XYZ BPO " and change the world .

I have heard about sweatshops in Bangladesh but after working in BPO I can say I have seen it first hand also . was there a difference ? yes It was a sweatshop with difference it had a vision and scale . soon it was acquired by a global IT service giant .

I moved to my current company 3 years ago . Back than it was a start up we had a hard time convincing people that we are not a fly by night firm and there job is secure here. After my last two experiences as HR I didn't believed it too . still for the sake of job I keep on doing it like a zombie . We are a mid sized company now with a decent brand we need smart guys and can't afford to mess up with a single candidate on the ground cost cutting to boost profit , we prefer smart all rounder and intelligent people who can take a leadership role when we will expand in coming future .

When we will expand ? this is a Q I fear most . my experience tell me that when a firm grows beyond a certain size .people loose touch with each other and Well defined tightly defined process are put in place . we being to do a Cost –Benefit analysis for every thing we do ? and somewhere in the process firm looses its soul.

Ms Excel Takes control and Power Point goes in background . people cry " this is not the company I joined " and they are right .After IPO whatever is soul which is left in group is vanished away . HR again became a instrument to deliver good bad or ugly news in a polished manner .

I am afraid of the day cause I knew my job in the firm will be over that day . I will have to move on .

Now the secret of the business world which I said in the start . there are two secret

MNC or Domestic , New Economy or Old Economy , IT or Airlines every firm says that there people are there biggest asset . if that is true HR Person should be the most important guy in the company ?

Than why don't we ever see a V.P( HR ) elevated to the post of CEO ? Why ?

second secret is more of a observation. in any firm ,attrition rates shoots up dramatically 2-3 years after IPO . Why ?

I can think of only one reason Business is not about managing people , its about managing money . CFO & CEO Runs the show here . HR is just a tool, an instrument to dress up their deeds in such a way that it is presentable .

HR knows the real truth and still ask people to believe in fables .that's why people hate him . but believe me HR is as helpless as anyone else in company ."

This is the confession of a HR Guy . I really can't do much about it because whatever he said is true . If your company is different please share it with me . I will ask my friend to check it .

Till than , goodbye !!

UPDATE: There is an interesting discussion about this post on CiteHR Forum . Read it here


MP said...

In my opinion one of the top reason why people hate HR managers in most companys, is that as time passes, HR managers tend to beleive that they control the destiny of many just because they have power of information. Information about each and every employee's salary, promotion chances etc. etc. They start behaving like that. The standard policy across the organizations about "salary" is "confedential". Is this the right time for RTI in Corporates? Not sure about this answer. Still I beleive that Corporates can publish (internally)few interesting data, one example: a table containing ranges of salary -to- no of people in a particular level.


I agree . There should be more transparency in HR .this idea of publishing salary matrices is worth trying . better if it is anonymous matrix because publishing names will cause a trouble in team work.
but as far as the point of firing,layoff and overall direction of firm is concerened HR can make little or no diffrence in current scheme of things . their role is more like "washing deck at Titanic". no matter what or how good or how honest work they do .They can't make a difference

$uN@yn/-\ said...

i must say, the first 2 paras, are really shattering my dreams..

i am studying BMS, will be joining a HR consultancy soon(hopefully) and think that HR is one of the most imp functions in any organisation.

maybe i am being naive... and with just 2 months of work exp in my summers wont support my argument.

il be working full time after a couple of months..and hope to contradict you prashant


siddhartha said...

dear all feel-fatigue Hr heroes,do not shrink your soul and temper.Though i appreciate SAGE's confession in front of HR sailors.There is lot to discuss but beyond to that it is more to observe and persist the situation and executor.This is same like mostly/generally happens in our home.The head of a family(Father)is the governor assisted by P.A(mother) who plan and further proposed in the family members(organisation) onto which approximately chances of implementation is approximately touching to 100%.If incase some(member/s) may not agree to viewpoints then they let them as they don't have an experience of life(past which happens or attached with their experinces of life).I mean to say in most of organisations(home)the future has been predicted/estimated and implemented by head(CEO) of an organisation.The very important factor which is unavoidable and to keep on top line is to understand Backpropogation Learning Network of an cndidate to whom you are considering.
yes,i am not an HR or from Managerial backgroung instead i am an Engineer and wanted to practise in Job consultancy without any bookish knowledge.I practise a bit and bitfully succeded to implicate the learning process of daily HR practitioners and found the gist of any man/women from any indus.

silviya said...

hi siddharth

can you translate it in hindi/english plz .

analogy of home and mother is not appropriate as ppl don't become dispensable in family when the objective is changed .

well this issue needs a deep debate of all partied involved . would like to see a CEO's comment on this . but i gues CEO doesn't visit HR Sites .
they visit Finance or marketing or pr@#$% sites
in reverse order . trust me with this as i am Exe assistant to an CEO and i have seen his search history in Browser . mostly they are sick you can't imagine how sick

thanks prashant for a nice posting


soms23 said...


I was so tempted to comment on the confession.

I am working as a HR Manager with an IT company in Bangalore. And the kind of experience I have here is really good. Here the HR dept works with complete transperancy. There is nothing like polishing and presenting. It is a very open environment. There is nothing like Office politics. The kind of people working here are mostly people who had started as freshers. The company believe in people growing along with the organisation. The reason behind this kind of environment is mainly because of the CEO of the company. It is very true that the top management is the major influencer of the organisational climate.

When I noticed this kind of an environment in the beginning days here, I was shocked. I thought it should just be a myth, as the days pass I would get to know the truth of the company, but to this day, i hold on to my shock. As a HR manager, it is my huge responsibility to carry on this culture undiluted. People have a lot of respect to the Top Management here.

I think the major reason behind this is communication. How the management and the HR dept communicates even in the day to day affair is very very crucial. There has been instances where the top management and also the HR dept has apologised with the members [they are not called employees] [None of the policies refers them as employees]

At any point of time if I had to quit from this company, I shall never ever work anywhere else. But touch Black.....

Soumya Shankar

$uN@yn/-\ said...

im just glad to see im not the only one !!!

ive got one more story for u prashant... have u read "maverick"??its by ricardo semler...

n if u still dont change ur find something else..but now, looking at the other sure il make u change ur opinion

determined n adamant


Hi Every body
thanks for comment ! now i admit i have seen maverick by ricardo semler in Book shelf at the neighbourhood book stall but never picked up . now that you have mentioned it i would like to read
the book . can't wait for sunday .
Thaks Sunayana ($un@yn/-\ )

the point made by Sowmya is very valid there should be a proper way of communicating bitweeen top brass and HR . but again its a matter of priority objective and soemtime EGO .

most of MNC Offshore Dev centre are looking for Cost arbitrage so they come and try to ramp up the operations asap . not studying the culural and othe issues .

even in the area like IT infrastructure admin they mostly take legeacy system (IF HQ have dell than ODC will have Dell irrespective of Quality of service of Dell india )

so in the same line HR Ploicy is also Cut-Copy-Paste . initially folks accept it bcoz of Big Money but grdually it decays and they start looking for change .

Good that there is companies with difference SAGE will be happy to know .(He Check this blog More Than me :-) )

$uN@yn/-\ said...

hi prashant

did u read the book???
do ask SAGE to read it tooo

i cant wait to change ur views

adamant as always

Prashant said...

Surely i have bought the book this sunday . i am in the middle of it as of now .
i read a lot of books so there was no way i could miss this one so strongly recomended by you

good luck to your quest of changing my view . but i seriously think solving the problem require more than change in my view .

i envy your determination :-) . Keep it up .

SAGE smiled when i told him about you ? he thanked me for making him a celbrity of sort on my blog . i am passig it to you .

drop me an email at pacificleo-at-gmail-dot-com if you don't mind .

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with prashant's view....but many would differentitate with me and would prove to change views.but the real fact is that the HR functions to the tunes of CEO and CFO (talkin about medium to Big size companies as most of them are in the process of Profit maximization rather than giving importance to members (as soms said)

Prashant thanks to you and your sage who has bought the real face of the HR .

Keep posting ...........


Thanks for stopping by and taking time to write your views comment . in the mean time SAGE's Company has got 2nd round of funding from investor and there is rummor of an upcoming IPO some time in next 1-2 years .
He was visibly upset but i asked him to not to let the history repeat itself .
He Said "Let's See"
We all are watching SAGE , We all are watching aliebit silently .
Will keep you guys posted

Anand said...

I agree to the extent that in many Orgs. HR is just a back bencher doing only routine clerical functions.Yet there are Orgs. too which care for their people, but very few.It is for HR guys to initiate the changes.The journey may be quite painful & if the efforts click, just imagine the pride of achievement.Transparency & communication are the Keys with special emphasis to ensure that credibility of the communicator is not eroded & remains above board.

Anonymous said...

Hi Prashant ..i have gone through the narration about an HR professional.....well it is true that the hr job is a thankless job....well another reason why HR professionals are left frustrated are due to the pressure from the operations dept. I work for a BPO and recruit candidates by doing lot of work like presentations and seminars in the colleges etc. Noow the people i select are at times rejected by the trainer and surprisingly on the reason which i felt is the strong factor in their personality.The trainer openly said..when i get uncontrollable number i reject even good candidates....also the operations puts tremendous pressure on the VP HR and it filters down to us...with impractial conditions numbers are cause of frustration is the politics in HR dept. i am dealing with recruitment and the boss has not given me a consultant to deal with...he wants me to to poach candidates in absoulutely unethical that i myself ruin my image in the entire industry.....poaching is normal in companys...but an hr is not expected to be selected in another company and then steal the candidates during the training in another company.

i am expected to give numbers by this way....and other collegues in HR are given 3-4 consultants who fetch candidates...and they earn lot of incentives.....leaving me absoultely degraded.....

Someone has said it right....:There is no place for ethics in HR.its a dirty job which you have to execute in a beautiful fashion.


Srishti said...

Hi Mr Prashant,

I am an HR professional and jsut beginning my carrer in HR and now that i have understood HR to a certain extent agrees with you earlier i had totally different perception regarding HR but now i totally agree with you that HR is just another tool to fulfill the objective of business rather than partener in business it still have to play that strategic role and our country still behind that

Anonymous said...

hi! prashant

this is anupriya .Ihave recently joined my first job as HR manager in a reputed firm.I totally agreewith you. Can you throw some light on incrasing rate of attrition in any organisation.

Anupriya Bhattacharya


Hi anupriya

Thanks for stoping by and leaving a comment . i value your affirmation to my views .well this problem of increasing attrition can be attributed to many factors . i have covered one aspect which i can identify with . youcan read it here ( )

if you are struggling with some specific issue you can contact me at my email id pacificleo-at-gmail dot com
may be we can find out a remedy
good luck

Trina said...

Hi Prashant,

You are so right about the plight of HR in an organisation. Mind you, situation is far worse when you are in a whitewashed role in Corporate HR.

People view you as a good for nothing sitting in an ivory tower no matter the number of initiatives that you have taken to make life easier for the Local HR People and the Business Heads.


thanks for your affirmation Trina . i can identify with your pain as i ahve seen it happening at my clients place .

soemtime its very very suffocating to be an HR .
i wish you luck and hope that you will change things for good

Beji said...

if anything.....this blog has led me to see HR as persons who too can feel.....I have resented HR for not using the power they definitely have, for any benefit of the people...for their "know-all..high handed" behaviour.....and for hiding any quality of a normal person they might have.....


Thanks Beji.
i am glad tha iwas able to change your views about HR a little bit . that s really enlightning .
good luck

dsingh said...

the only rule of thumb I think is if they need people badly they'll hire anyone who can be trained. If they have not urgent need and they are hiring for pipelining, they'll apply all the things mentioned by you. Its like You'll eat anything edible when you are hungry. If not hungry then even good things you may not eat.

marry said...

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Anonymous said...

The "HR Manager" left his manufacturing company job because he did not like when his company failed to retain the full strength of employees. Are you kidding me! Well I guess it answers the question that why these HR guys do not ever get past the VP- HR designation.
To start with, a businessman or not, it doest not make sense to keep your full workforce in the period of economic/business downturn coz by doing so you are essentially jeopardizing the jobs of others who work for the company. If the company keep on incurring losses; it will eventually close down and then everybody looses their jobs. Get the point.
Second, claiming that those who were performing well were thrown out is somewhat unacceptable. Why would a company let go a performer and keep the non performers. And performing alone is not the whole picture; consider this:
There's this 57 year old guy with essentially an year left in his career.He anyways will have to go in a years time. and now consider this 35 year old guy with a family to support (kids, wife,parents - all of em) so called "non-performer" but the company knows that proper training can improve his performace. In this scenario if the company decides to let go the performer and keep the non-performer is it really a wrong thing.
I dont like your HR guy


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consultants said...

I don't want to clammy the impact of his telling so I am trying to make his account as it is for you in First person,