Our HR Is Incompetent – Now What?


Way too many small to mid-size organizations have to live with incompetent HR. Either someone is wearing the HR hat and knows little to nothing about HR, or someone has the full time role and is in over their heads.

And before any of you lose sleep or want to comment about the obvious, not every company has incompetent HR. I’m talking here about the ramifications if you do, and what can be done about it.

I’ve seen too often a clerical role in HR gets advanced simply because of tenure. A prime example is a marketing administrator was helping in HR and they asked if she would like to stay on permanently. She always wanted to get into HR and took advantage of the chance. She was one of two HR assistants reporting to the HR Supervisor. Within 2 years, the supervisor had left and so did the other assistant that was the supervisor for a brief time. The new HR Manager became the last one standing. 17 years later she is the VP of HR with two assistants. She is a bit more aware of the HR function through time and exposure to events and attending annual conferences, but hardly competent.

In the last 14 years I’ve been consulting for the HR & Training worlds I have run across way to many people that run HR and are in over their heads but somehow explain all the problems their lack of competency creates as part and parcel of the HR world. Yet there are also a ton of competent HR leaders out there that would never have allowed such chaos to exist.

So maybe your HR department struggles with recruitment and even the most basic job search is a challenge. Or how about behavior issues, employee relations and resolutions when problems arise, can this individual respond appropriately? Are they a strong support to management for employee performance improvement or are they quick to terminate? Or maybe they seem out to lunch all the time and everything is over their head all the time.

Those that know me might think I would recommend training, but actually I would recommend a demotion if you want to keep them in HR, hiring a replacement, or a total job reassignment to another part of the company. They are not in the right job, and you either start over their training, or give them new opportunities. In any case, if your HR is incompetent, replace them immediately!

If you are not ready to make the needed changes, at least cut your personal losses by selling your company stock. I’m not giving investment advice, only trying to make a point that your company succeeds on its human employees, and they succeed with strong HR support. It is like a big dominos game and you are going to lose it all if your HR employees and especially leadership are weak.

I know one company that is regretting their previous excuse of hiring better talent as too expensive; as they are now settling a multi-million dollar lawsuit over EEO, ADA and Workplace Harassment with a single employee. Guess what happens when the other employees get wind of the payout? You might hope this was an isolated incident, but it was not.

Lastly, don’t wait until things get this ugly. If your HR Manager struggles with recruiting an entry level person and 90-days later you are still waiting, chances are good this person is incompetent. Find them a new career path and help you company succeed.