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How NOT to Hire: 'Keeping It Real' and Other HR Gobbledygook

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by Lisa Johnson

over 2 years ago

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You have to wonder about HR sometimes.  I personally have worked in internal HR, and I know that HR professionals have to work hard to develop credibility with line, middle and senior management.  Often HR is seen as 'that' department – a great big black hole of a cost centre that doesn't seem to offer a lot to the business on a day to day basis.  Now, clearly this is not true, and a well run HR department can make a real difference to the success of a company. But sometimes HR just doesn't help itself. Take Cotton On (for example) with their HR policy that requires staff to 'have fun' and to 'keep it real'.  

What the hell does keeping it real mean?  Most of the time I see people using 'I'm just keeping it real' to justify being rude and aggressive.  Keeping it real is as pleasant as 'I am sorry, but...' or 'With respect...' Worse, keeping it real means nothing at all to staff.  If they require a definition of 'keeping it real' to ensure that they are, in fact, 'keeping it real', then they are no longer keeping it real, because they will be acting in a way to meet somebody else's definition of keeping it real, rather than what keeping it real should mean, which is 'being myself and saying what I think and feel regardless of societal guidelines or pressures'. 

How NOT to Hire: ‘Keeping It Real’ and Other HR Gobbledygook

When you think about it; keeping it real is the most ridiculous, trite, worthless piece of HR gobbledygook seen in quite a while, particularly when you consider we live and work in the era of management speak. The problem with writing ridiculous policies is that it gives staff a licence to ignore EVERYTHING you say. But look, Cotton On is not the only company out there with ridiculous HR policies.  

And, to be fair to HR, I think they are sometimes landed with these things.  A company might decide they need an image overhaul, they hire some consultants to revamp the brand, and before you know it, management is demanding that HR insert ridiculous catch phrases into contracts and policy documents.  I bet there are HR managers out there banging their foreheads on their desks in sheer frustration at the demand from management to include 'keeping it real'-like phrases in the company code of conduct. So maybe it's unfair of me to roll my eyes and snigger at more HR gobbledygook policies.  Maybe HR is just trying to cope with the demands of David Brent style management.  

But regardless, these kinds of policies can make a company look ridiculous.  When you are trying to attract top talent, if you are sending out a contract full of ridiculous, unmeasurable, throwaway phrases, then you risk making a bad impression on a potential hire. It's hard to attract good people.  It's hard to keep them.  Keep it real, folks, and leave the trite, the meaningless and the ridiculous out of your HR policies and where it belongs - in bin 13.

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