A Typical Job Advert

A reader sends me a job advert for an “HR Business Partner” which is worth fisking. For a start, what is a “business partner”? Is this a fancy title for someone working in what is often laughably called a support service?

Act as a Strategic Partner to 2 major portfolios with circa 200 staff

Act as a what? I think what they’re trying to say is they’ll provide HR services to about 200 staff working across 2 areas of operations.

Be a leader of HR Initiatives developed in conjunction with supporting Centre’s of Excellence

Provide HR services while taking into consideration other support services. “Centre’s of Excellence” indeed.

Opportunities for promotion and development within a company that is rapidly growing

Really? How high can an HR Business Partner rise?

As Senior HR Business Partner, you will be responsible for supporting, shaping and driving our ambitious organisational strategy through your business portfolios.

So now it’s a Senior HR Business Partner, so they weren’t lying about those promotions after all. And if this is the person’s role, it raises the question of what the managers of those business portfolios are doing. Isn’t it their job to implement company policy through their organisations?

You will act as a true strategic partner influencing and supporting leader’s decisions that have an impact on people, processes and business operations.

“True strategic partner”. Presumably there are false strategic partners on the loose in this outfit. Now meddling in leaders’ decisions might not be a bad idea from an HR perspective, but it has little to do with strategy.

We operate under a strong HR Framework, which encompasses being a strategic partner, a talent developer, employee advocate and an HR functional expert.

I can see what they’re trying to say here, but it’s written terribly. Who is we?

Across your two portfolios, Supply Chain and Quality you will be expected to;

Provide expertise to functional HR responsibilities. This includes ER, talent development, portfolio management and HR processes and procedures whilst managing day-to-day issues that arise.

Okay fine, but surely the candidate needs to know something about Supply Chain and Quality to properly deliver this service? How can they engage in talent management if they don’t know what the employees are doing? So far, there is nothing in the job description which even mentions the industry this job will be in. Presumably they don’t think it’s relevant.

Have a strong grasp on strategic consultation; ensuring leaders create and implement plans to improve organisational effectiveness and change management processes through our framework.

This is gobbledegook. Who are these “leaders”? Why not call them managers? And what change management processes are they on about? Are these leaders currently aware of them?

Drive the design of our current & future workforce that will ensure talent vitality and prosperity across your business portfolios.

You mean hire the right people?

You will be responsible for ensuring we have workforce plans in place that will enable us to achieve our growth aspirations and work with Centre of Excellence in the wider HR team to achieve optimal results.

And what, specifically, does that entail? What actual, measurable tasks is this person supposed to carry out? This is less a job description than a list of desirable outcomes.

Actively monitor, shape and drive a positive change through employee engagement. Coach leaders to develop their skills…

Okay, fine.

…and ensure you are advocating for diversity and inclusion within the workforce.

I’m sure the leaders will just love that.

You will be the SME and the leader’s advisor when it comes to dealing with discrimination, harassment, conflict and poor performance.

SME? Small-medium enterprise?

To set you up for success in this position we believe you need to have the following skills and experience;

A minimum of 5 years’ experience working in a Business Partner Position in a large complex organisation

Note there is no requirement to have any industry knowledge whatsoever.

Able to think critically and use diagnostic & Intervention tools to assess & achieve higher organisational performance

I assume they mean poring over diversity statistics and sending out endless employee surveys.

Strong business acumen, understands how businesses, teams and individuals operate

How are they going to do that if all they’ve ever done is HR?

Have an undergraduate degree in Human Resources Management / Organisational Development / Psychology or business related subjects

Heh.

Quickly able to establish rapport and credibility amongst the business leaders

Despite having no knowledge of the operations or even the industry.

I’ve read this job description several times and I’m still none the wiser what the person is actually supposed to do. Will they be conducting interviews, writing procedures, drawing up organisation charts, creating skills matrices, developing training programmes, and participating in the operational decision-making? I have no idea, and nor does the person who wrote the advert. This is normal.

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34 thoughts on “A Typical Job Advert

  1. Look at any local authority ad, the idea is to weed out those who are not ideologicaly sound because they don’t speak the language.

  2. Look at any local authority ad, the idea is to weed out those who are not ideologicaly sound because they don’t speak the language.

    Indeed, only sufficiently progressive candidates will understand the jargon.

  3. “You will be the SME and the leader’s advisor when it comes to dealing with discrimination, harassment, conflict and poor performance.”

    Subject Matter Expert.

    They’re looking for an expert in harassment, picking fights and performing poorly. As long as you’re not racist.

  4. And you will also presumably require excellent communication skills, written and verbal, which rules out the writer of the advert.

  5. I mean, just think how people like me must feel so terribly lost when we can give a short, concise and precise answer to a question about what it is we do. And what our value add is, and how this can be precisely expressed in CHF.

    Such wishy-washy HR jobs must be paradise in comparison…..

    (I jest…)

  6. >To set you up for success in this position we believe you need to have the following skills and experience;

    You need the ability to use a semi-colon where a colon should be? (One of the few skills that most University graduates have mastered.)

  7. “I’m sure the leaders will just love that.”

    They will, it’s on their scorecard as a KPI….
    So much oxygen theft…. The west is slowly disappearing up its own fundament with this. The long march through the institutions is just about there.

    Nothing short of some very deep unpleasantness in response will roll it back.

  8. Really, I learned all I wanted to know about the writer as soon as I saw the plural of “centre” written as “centre’s.”

  9. Another example of David Graeber ‘bullshit jobs’ that corporations and bureaucrats create where there are lots of memos and meetings but nothing productive occurs.

  10. It’s a lot of fancy verbiage to cover up the fact that the job is relatively simple. When their boss pops into the HR office and casually asks how things are going, they show him that job spec, he pretends to understand, then he toddles off for fear that his ignorance may be uncovered. It’s the Emperor’s New Clothes effect.

  11. “what the person is actually supposed to do”

    That’s an easy one: produce lots of meaningless text similar to this job description, complete with charts and graphs, until the victim organization (“the portfolio”) stops paying either due to bankruptcy or because its management (“the leaders”) starts asking inconvinient questions like yours. Rinse, repeat.

  12. what the person is actually supposed to do

    Field any personnnel problems, sit on them, vomit forth acres of incomprehensible HR-speak whenever anyone asks what is being done, and wait until the problem goes away of its own accord.

    If you could understand the job ad in the first place, you are probably qualified.

  13. My firm landed the finance that I have been banging on about. I needed some info on C level salaries and reverted to an old HR contact for an update. Realise that guys like me appear way over paid when compared to market and I need a good spin to explain why you can’t compare me to market.

    Anyhow he assisted and also explained that he had successfully hired the team for a major project his way and is hopefully lined up for another and he has the corporate HR admittedly by the balls for the next one.

    Just saying there are some good ones out there.

  14. Where I was before, corporate HR was mostly about telling employees to get back in their boxes while HR-splaining why group management was always right.

    Apparently she did express her concerns to the head shed that people were leaving at an ungodly rate and perhaps they might like to reflect on why that is, but then claimed to us that 20% annual professional staff turnover was totally normal for Belgium. She was an unconvincing liar.

  15. I would suggest the first task for whoever gets that job is to hunt down the writer of the ad and humanely shoot him or her in the face.

    Tim, I think your future in HR ought to be as the ‘Bitch Hunter’ of the industry… Either that, or learn the language…

    @Bardon

    guys like me appear way over paid when compared to market and I need a good spin to explain why you can’t compare me to market

    I’m sure your shareholders (if there are such) and lenders will be overjoyed to hear that you hired an HR guy to spin your way out of that one!

  16. This crap is why we, as a company, have decided that if we get to the point people think we need HR – we can conclude we are too big.

  17. The last word on HR departments was written 35 years ago by Robert Townsend in Up the Organization: get rid of it. This article writen at the turn of the century by Christopher Fildes applies in spades – and not just to HR.

  18. Good example of liberal newspeak. Liberal brain structure is different and they speak differently. For liberals , incomprehensible speak or writing is sign of education and intellectualism.

    And the rest of society just afraid to challenge. And speak out that authors of such work ads have some serious mental disorder.

  19. The advert mentioned being an employee advocate.

    That, of course, is a lie.

    HR are tools of management, possibly even literally. Staff should know – don’t trust HR with anything that can be used against you. HR’s job is to find the right staff, keep you in compliance with the law and make it as easy to fire staff as possible, consistent with employment law.

    If that’s not their job, I’d hire a new HR department.

    I’m speaking as management, not as an employee.

  20. That was written by an Indian.

    Or, possibly, a failed daily mail intern.

  21. Great fisking Tim, which deserves a long answer.

    In a large organisation, the HRBP is the interface between HR and the senior management. A typical structure is: Chief HR Officer, several HR Directors (or Senior VPs) who either own chunks of HR like policy and training or face off to chunks of the business, and then the HRBPs who face off to specific senior managers.

    In most big orgs, HR are intimately involved in hiring and firing, restructuring, promotions, pay and bonus, etc. HR depts are big orgs in their own right and no sane manager can navigate that on their own. The HRBP is there to grease the wheels: think of them as a function of the size of modern HR depts. The big differentiator is whether the HRBP thinks they are protecting the management from HR, or HR from management.

    A good HRBP will help senior managers through the quagmire of HR policies and help them hire good people, fire bad people, and stay compliant with minimum fuss.

    A bad HRBP will enforce all the dumbest HR policies, ensure that “diversity” is top priority for hiring, and make it impossible to fire useless people.

    These roles do have career prospects. A good HRBP will get high praise from senior management which can fast-track them to director level – provided they don’t make too many enemies in HR itself. Unfortunately many HRBPs are promoted by flattering the HR hierarchy itself whether it helps the actual business or not.

  22. @MC “I’m sure your shareholders (if there are such) and lenders will be overjoyed to hear that you hired an HR guy to spin your way out of that one!”

    This bloke does it over the phone for nothing, that is the second time, good northern English lad that he is. Also 49% of our shares are owned by a sheikh who just isn’t interested on what we are on and of the other 51% the majority of them are owned by two other C level guys, so when I justify my salary I am also justifying their salary as well, so no push back there. The new investor will have a seat at the board and one of the agenda items for the first board meeting with them on board will be the 2016 long term incentive (LTI) executive staff share issue, the 2017 LTI and cash bonus, the new investor is a Hong Kong entity and their rep is an Aussie so should be quite interesting to see how he goes when he considers approving our basic human rights.

  23. As far as I can tell this is an outside outfit of hired guns who come in and perform HR functions, and then weasel their way into policy decisions.

    Is their name Camel’sNose LLC, a division of BusyBodies Inc. ?

  24. “A good HRBP will help senior managers through the quagmire of HR policies and help them hire good people, fire bad people, and stay compliant with minimum fuss.

    A bad HRBP will enforce all the dumbest HR policies, ensure that “diversity” is top priority for hiring, and make it impossible to fire useless people.”

    Look to the incentives. Where is the incentive for the former, when there is clearly a powerful incentive for the later….

  25. I’m quite interested in this idea of the ‘HR Business Partner’, here is a someone’s attempt at a definition:

    https://www.hrpartners.com.au/blog/archives/what-does-human-resources-business-partner-really-mean_746/

    All I can see in this is it has been created to make space for HR graduates at the top salary band. At the level they are describing, this is simply Management, but without any of the nasty knowledge of actual operations. You just get parachuted in with a lame degree and just 5 years experience.

  26. Where I was before, corporate HR was mostly about telling employees to get back in their boxes while HR-splaining why group management was always right.

    Well yes. Hence my earlier remark about HR being the propaganda arm of the senior management.

  27. In a large organisation, the HRBP is the interface between HR and the senior management.

    Ah, okay. So the gulf between HR and operations has become so wide HR needs to second folk into the various departments to ensure their edicts are followed. I’d hazard a guess that if the gap is that large, the HR department may as well belong to another company.

    Unfortunately many HRBPs are promoted by flattering the HR hierarchy itself whether it helps the actual business or not.

    Why does that not surprise me?

  28. All I can see in this is it has been created to make space for HR graduates at the top salary band. At the level they are describing, this is simply Management, but without any of the nasty knowledge of actual operations.

    That’s how it looks to me, too.

  29. Here’s a small sub-section of the job description which seems quite clear to me.

    [You will be] a talent developer… ensure talent vitality … coach leaders to develop their skills…

    In other words, when one of the guys in the trenches saves the company from a lawsuit by finding a solution to a problem before the client realized something was on fire, it will be because you developed his talent. Not because he’s smart, or because he’s been in the field 10 years and seen everything, or because he listened carefully when a more senior worker explained something five years ago, or because he’s been doing a lot of reading in his spare time. It will be because of you!

    How will you accomplish this? You waste your time googling various employee enhancement companies. Then you will choose one based on useless reviews, because you’ve never attended any of their courses yourself, or have the knowledge to separate good teachers from useless gits. You will choose a course based on buzzwords, because you have no knowledge of the field, and their PR guy bought you lunch. You will lean on junior managers by reminding them that their KPIs include employee career advancement for their subordinates, and pretend that long-term career building is an important part of their subordinates’ well-being, as if you have any clue why turnover is as bad as it is. The grunts in the front line will leave their urgent projects for a few days because their bosses don’t want to argue with HR, and the money’s been approved anyway, and think of it as a short break, or even a vacation. You get free lunch. Besides, it’ll look good on your resume, won’t it? Are you going to argue about every single thing?

    And that’s how the HR Business Partner whose name everyone has already forgotten develops an initiative in conjunction with supporting a Center of Excellence. Until he waddles in next year, and everyone groans “Oh, him again”.

  30. Apropos of not much…
    Has anyone noticed that, while HR beasts have pushed the “open plan” office, where “no one” has an office, there is still one group of people that do, indeed, have offices?
    Of course, that’s for “privacy”, because their need for privacy is real and your need for privacy while discussing multi-million dollar commercial-in-confidence matters can be resolved by you getting up and walking to a quiet area.

  31. Open plan offices, reduce testosterone levels and should not be tolerated in any business facility that operates in a western manner.

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