How To Find The Missing Hope, Humor & Human in HR

07/23/2016 07:20 pm ET

”Wait! Did you just say ‘how to find the missing...’? You mean, HR is hopeless, humorless & inhuman?”


Screamed my HR friend, with crooked eyebrows & offended eyes and her face reminded me of the time when she found Ryan Gosling trapped in her microwave. It’s actually a mouse and she named him that because he appears in her dreams constantly & is so cute she doesn’t want to see him leave despite him being a mouse.


Anyway, my response was just like that of any good friend; calm, collected and ended with the words ‘you’ve got to read my blog to find out’. 


A sweet little disclaimer about the article though that the three characteristics noted in the title are not found all through the HR industry and please do not see it as a generic brush to paint the entire field of HR. Cool? Let’s start with hope. 



Before I dig deeper into hope, let me assign you a mental exercise to do as you read.

Think of the world’s top ten best companies. In case you don’t know, these involve companies like Google, Facebook, Apple etc. They are admired for their mersmerizing products & massive appeal that make people line up for 48 plus hours for their products.


Now think of the last ten major companies that had to shut down. You can think about the likes of Nokia, Blockbuster & Kodak. Now answer me, were these failed operations once huge? Did they have massive launches, amazing consumer reviews & fascinating technology? As I feel you nodding your head in agreement right now, just think about it... Why did they had to shut down? What do they have in common? 


You’ll hear various reasons if you ask their CEO’s but the top theme of that reason is the inability to adapt to market changes. Or in other words, the inability to innovate. 

You may ask, what is innovation got to do with HR?

The answer is ‘a lot’ and right now extremely rare companies (think of the top 10 I mentioned above) are innovating their HR operations.

The most commonly known and widest function of HR is recruting, the place from where all other HR activities begin. Our recruting system has been taken over by tech zombies a.k.a the ATS (application tracking systems), also referred to as the black hole by Liz Ryan, founder of the Human Workplace and the failure to innovate recruting practices is disastrous.


Disengaged employees, high turnover and low performance are words all too commonly heard so I’m not even quoting the statistics here. But if these issues really are a problem, have you ever considered what Einstein said about insanity- ‘doing the same thing over and over expecting different results’?

Google adapted Holacracy, Spotify divides teams into squads and AirBnB constantly solves it’s challenges with design thinking approach. It’s all innovation within HR that makes these companies wildly attractive and talent magnets for cream talent. Hopeless are the rest that refuse to let go the their favorite keyword induced candidate search systems that puke down a bunch of candidates from the system that at best copy pasted the most keywords from the job description. 

Honestly? Wouldn’t you say this is hopeless? Would you marry someone that a keyword search suggested (that matches the way you describe yourself online)? 


This is a nice one because of all the three, I guess this one offended my HR friend the most. Hence, I’ll explain it with analogies. 

Can you be a baker & not know how to use the oven? 

Can you be a mathematcian and claim to be bad with numbers? 

Can you be a pirate & say you fear the ocean? (Jack Sparrow would shoot himself in the foot if you told him that).


Human resources is the business of people.

 When you work in HR, you work with people & their issues. I don’t know if it’s the piles of crappy CV’s or having some power over other employees’ livelihood but there is something that makes many HR employees extremely rude and obnoxious. Now, if you work in finance or IT, you may get away with having an off putting personality and cold behavior because hey, no one is perfect right? 

But if as a HR person you’re rude with people and take yourself too seriously, you’re not doing your job well and frankly, sucking the joy out of the HR profession. 

To find the beauty of HR, have fun, take yourself lightly and fill your day with formally acceptable humor that lightens people up. Hint; look up Garfield. 


No credits claimed.
No credits claimed.


As you can read in the first section, the cold and distant zombie attitude of the faceless corporate is withering. This is the era of human connections and personality. Every brand, every CEO has to have that humanistic element that sets them apart. And the only way to be a memorable and sticky brand is to speak to the human part of your customer. 

Every HR operation needs to bring that human element in their practices because they need to understand people. 

And different people are motivated by different things at different points in life. Making a cookie cutter policy document for the company website and hiding behind cubicles is may be how accountants can survive but HR cannot.

In his episode 31 of the DailyVee show, Gary Vaynerchuck, the CEO of Vaynermedia put it best when he said “What matters the most, what I think is absolutely the future of HR, is the 1 on 1 nature of it. You can’t put everybody in the same box. You are driven by different things in different points of your life.”

Watch the full episode below:




A study of about 10,000 employees, conduted by Gallup has some reamrkable and some surprising evidence to support the above argument for ‘being more human in HR’. They asked employees what they want from their leaders and the answer was four things: compassion, trust, hope & stability. 

None of them said I hope my manager was better at coding or I hope my boss knew algebra. The traits that make the best leaders in the world are human traits and computerising activities where human element is needed, is a big mistake. 

Understanding people & tailoring policies to their needs aligning them with business objectives is what top notch companies do. That’s how you find the missing ‘human’ in HR. Which is why I created the Human Centered Learning Designing for corporate learning & training designers as part of my PhD thesis & turning it into a startup. Because apart from sensible recruiting, Learning & Development is the are within HR that can make or break an organization's success. 


Hence, hope to innovate and adapt, humor to lighten up & meet people with a smile and humanly empathizing with employees is where HR is headed next. Don’t lag behind or you might be trapped like the mouse in my HR friend’s microwave. 

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