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Posted: October 18, 2009

Human Resources can be an exec’s best friend

HR can help you land the job -- and make the most of it

Stephanie Klein

Recently, CoBizmag.com ran an article titled: "Human resources: an exec's worst enemy" by John Heckers. As a CEO, recruiter and president of the Colorado Human Resources Association, I feel qualified to present another perspective.

Proclaiming that all HR people are ineffective, power-hungry and out of touch with the business is like saying all CEOs are crooks and all accountants are unable to interact with people.  You can find ineffective people in every organization; but it's misleading and, frankly, career-limiting to tell someone in a career search to always go around HR.

I have worked with many CEOs who value and rely on the insight, direction and impact of their HR leaders. Mr. Heckers appears to be familiar only with those organizations which elect to view their human resource practitioners as a necessary evil, rather than a strategic partner. As Liz Ryan of World @ Work has commented, "Most organizations have the HR department they deserve."

The best HR people I work with - and our firm comes in contact regularly with leading industries in Colorado, such as health care, telecommunications, technology, financial services and the nonprofit sectors - are true business partners and have their finger on the pulse of their business and its culture.

In fact, for the past four years, ColoradoBiz has underwritten and sponsored the Colorado Society of Human Resource Management's Best Companies Event. The companies that are recognized have outstanding business performance, and the CEOs interviewed in each category underscore the value that their HR departments have on their overall success.

These CEOs consistently utilize their HR leaders as essential and effective partners in developing and executing organizational strategy.

There are many laws being passed these days that directly impact employers. That said, there's no doubt that too much of what HR is tasked with is bureaucratic and generally driven by increasingly complex and onerous labor laws.

Most of my HR colleagues, however, continually seek to minimize and balance this administrative detail while ensuring HR still effectively manages the risk and reward inherent in the "people" side of the business.

If you're looking for a new opportunity, do your research, know all the players -- including those in human resources -- and leverage HR to your advantage. HR can help you land a great role within a company and help you get the most out of it.

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Stephanie Klein is president of the 1,300-member Colorado Human Resource Association. She is also CEO and founder of The Boomer Group, an employment services firm dedicated to matching Colorado employers with the best and most experienced candidates so that they can achieve results now.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Stephanie, Thank you for speaking out about the evolution of HR as a strategic business partner. As a former VP HR, I was called upon regularly by the CEO and executive team to vet candidates during the interview process. There are other reasons that executives need to engage HR in the pursuit. 1. HR can escort you through the interview process as an internal sponsor 2. HR can think of 100 reasons to stand in your way if you alienate them 3. Once in the door HR can ensure that your department receives superior service, the best candidates, and will go out of their way to make sure you are taken care of (or not - it's up to you). 4. Senior HR Management often has insight and can help new executives navigate internal land mines once on board. There are SO MANY reasons to embrace EVERYONE during the pursuit and interview process. Executives (above all) should know this. Kimberly Lucas Goldstone Partners, Inc. By Kimberly Lucas on 2009 10 19
Ms. Klein has written a well-thought out article which, nonetheless, completely missed the point of my artcle. I wonder if Ms. Klein read this article at all, as her "answer" did not address the points therein. I have no argument that an HR department can be very helpful and even, in large companies, necessary in legal compliance, employee relations, Worker Compensation and unemployment claims, and other legal and administrative issues. Let them work there where they do their best. My articles are generally aimed to a different audience --- executives seeking jobs. In this arena, most executives have experienced HR people as being obstructionist, bureaucratic and not knowledgeable in the skills it takes to be a top executive. Often the best candidates are passed over for those who meet a "job description" list which cannot reflect the true skills and qualifications needed by a top executive. There have been several exceptions in the over 25 years I have worked with assisting people's careers at this level. But they are rare, and most have agreed have my assessment of the usual HR Department's inability to effectively evaluate senior level personnel. My advice to executives remains the same. Speak to the Board of Directors, the CEO, or someone else who can actually say "yes," rather than HR, who can only say "no" or "let's pass you upstairs." You will become employed far more quickly and effectively. Keep in mind, also, that Ms. Klein is the leader of an advocacy group for the profession I was telling executives to avoid in their job search. I would have found the article far more persuasive had it been written by an executive who had just landed a job with the gracious help and assistance of Human Resources. These may, however, be somewhat more difficult to find. By John Heckers on 2009 10 19

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