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HBR Blog: "Why Managers and HR Don’t Get Along"

Something I encounter regularly...

HBR Blog: “Why Managers and HR Don’t Get Along”

By In Blog On August 1, 2014

It was the first sentence in last point, “Finally, all too many HR people don’t take the time to truly understand their company’s business,” that really hit home for me.  As a highly specialized recruiter, I am constantly dealing with HR people who don’t understand the function of the jobs that they are tasked with filling.

HBR’s Ron Ashkenas makes several other good points in his article “Why Managers and HR Don’t Get Along” and it is worth reading – whether you’re a frustrated recruiter or an HR professional trying to do a better job.

Not understanding the priorities, responsibilities or needs of their hiring manager customers is one of my pet peeves though.  Maybe the Ashkenas is right – the hiring managers share some of the responsibility for educating their HR advocates, however Internal Recruiters need to do their homework too.

Case in point:  A VP of Supply Chain Management at a major manufacturing client recently asked me to find him an experienced category manager who could help them centralize their Indirect procurement function and consolidate their supply base.  It’s a complex job requiring significant experience.  When I found what appeared to be a perfect candidate, the Internal Recruiter did everything she could to stop the process because the candidate’s current salary was $5k higher than the midpoint of HR’s predetermined salary range.  The recruiter’s efforts either ignored or didn’t understand the fact that whoever they hired would be responsible for around $200 million per year in contracts and that if a really good candidate can save an additional say… 0.5% the difference would be around$1 million per year (or 200x the $5k we were arguing about).  Had I not gone around the Internal Recruiter, the VP would have never seen or had a chance to hire my candidate.  In the end, I worked to convince all of them that they needed to reevaluate the position in order to get what they wanted.  It was a fight though…

I don’t mind, I’m used to it – however, it’s no wonder hiring managers sometimes struggle with HR.  Much of my own experiences with HR have tended to follow the idea that process is more important than results.  That might be true in spaces where earnings and profitability don’t matter but in business they do.  In fact, in business, the only things that should count are the results and how they were achieved.

Fortunately, the HBR article is not all complaints and no solutions.  Ashkenas does have some simple suggestions about how both hiring managers and HR professionals can do better, starting with this simple if not obvious idea: “If you’re an HR manager, make a point of spending more time with business people and less with your HR counterparts.”   Totally true – for HR to be valued internally, it needs to get out of the vacuum of process management and work to understand the operational imperatives and pressures felt by hiring managers.

This is something even people like me, external recruiters who have deep knowledge of their disciplines, can help with too.  I’ve always felt that part of my job is to help educate HR professionals about the market conditions for the jobs they want to fill (and I do, when they let me).


Kurt Schmidt is the author of “Modern Job Search” and the President and Owner of Capto Systems, an executive search firm focused on supply chain and strategic sourcing jobs in manufacturing and energy. He’s also an aspiring photographer and traveler.  If you’re really looking for a job, you need his book!  





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