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Take the Quiz Does Your HR Job Stink

November 9, 2007
Related Topics: Your HR Career, The HR Profession, Retention, Featured Article
The Workforce Management list of the 30 highest-paid HR leaders came out recently. You weren’t on it. Neither was I. Number 30 earned $1.595 million. I think it’s fair to say there is a gap between "them" and "us." I came in at number 1,435,765, up seven spots from 2006. Sweet!

This kind of list always makes me think about my future. Good HR people are in high demand. That’s good to know. However, before you decide to put yourself in the marketplace, you need to determine a way to evaluate the strength of your current HR position, honestly and objectively.

Don’t make the rookie mistake of using your current happiness as the primary measurement related to the quality of your current HR job. Your happiness is driven by multiple factors, including working with people you consider friends, being motivated by your daily tasks, a supportive boss, etc. Those things can change. They are important factors, but may or may not be reflective of the quality of your current HR position.

Determining whether your HR job is a keeper is better illustrated by macro factors that reflect your company’s desire, capability and commitment to a talent strategy, and as a result, what you do on a daily basis, both now and in the future.

The good news is that you don’t have to take a class in economics to determine if your company is a player in the talent game. Take the following test to determine if your HR job sucks or rocks:

1. The average medical plan cost (medical and Rx) per covered individual at my company is:

A. $3,500 or below.
B. $3,501 to $4,500.
C. $4,500 to $5,500.
D. Over $5,500 or corporate won’t return my calls when I ask for the figure.

2. My company currently picks up the following percentage of total employee benefit costs on behalf of our talent:

A. 80 percent or greater.
B. 70 percent to 79 percent.
C. 60 percent to 69 percent.
D. Under 60 percent or corporate won’t tell me.

Questions 1 and 2 reflect your company’s ability and willingness to be competitive in total compensation related to benefits. The average medical plan cost per covered individual reflects the burden your company currently faces. The lower the current cost, the more effectively your company will be able to "hold the line" in providing the same medical benefits as costs continue to rise. The more your company currently pays per covered individual, the less funding there will be for other people initiatives. Think GM is a happy place to practice HR right now? Over time, higher costs here will impact your ability to attract and retain talent. That’s bad news for your HR career.

3. The cost per hire at our company is:

A. Less than $1,000.
B. $1,000 to $1,999.
C. $2,000 to $2,999.
D. $3,000 or whatever the headhunter tells me it needs to be. 

4. I spend the following amount of my time recruiting:

A. 30 percent or greater.
B. 20 percent to 29 percent.
C. 10 percent to 19 percent.
D. Less than 10 percent or recruiting is not my job.

Questions #3 and #4 reflect the impact your HR function has on talent acquisition practices at your company. Cost per hire is defined here in the simplest terms, including advertising/postings, contingency/retained search costs and referral fees only. When you are a central part of the recruiting process at your company, you are in the strategy mix. The lower your cost per hire and the higher amount of time you spend on recruiting, the stronger your HR job is for the future. Talent wins.

5. I spend the following amount of my time in employee-relations activities:

A. Less than 10 percent.
B. 10 percent to 19 percent.
C. 20 percent to 29 percent.
D. More than 30 percent and I hate my job.

Not a lot of explanation needed here. While employee-relations work is among the most critical aspects of the HR generalist role, if you spend more than 20 percent of your time doing it, you’ll burn out and be out of your current job in two to three years. Voluntarily.

6. Delivery of entry-level management training at my company is handled by:

A. HR managers and directors.
B. A combination of HR pros and training specialists (in-house or outsourced).
C. Training professionals (in-house or outsourced).
D. My company is a proponent of the "school of hard knocks" training model.

If you’re involved in the delivery of supervisor/manager training, you’re a player and the company respects your ability to mentor emerging managers. After all, who do they come to daily with the drama? If you’re not involved (even by teaming with an outside firm), you’re an administrator.

7. Our company advocates "pay for performance" by:

A. Mandating a merit matrix where the highest-performing employees receive base pay increases of at least 8 percent, compared with 2 percent for the weakest performers.
B. Mandating a merit matrix where the highest-performing employees receive base pay increases of at least 6 percent, compared with 3 percent for the weakest performers.
C. We encourage pay for performance but have no compensation guidelines to encourage or measure it.
D. The company does across-the-board increases with a "cost of living" type of feel.

Stars won’t stay for money alone, but they won’t tolerate being treated like everyone else. The best culture for HR is one that differentiates rewards.  

8. When key managers cite your biggest contribution to the organization, they point to your:

A. Ability to identify and acquire talent.
B. Ability to mentor young managers.
C. Investigation skills.
D. Organizational skills related to the company picnic.

Score your results!

Each "A" = 3 points
Each "B" = 2 points
Each "C" = 1 point
Each "D" = 0 points, and a free call to your EAP line

Total your score. Now determine if your HR job is a keeper:
18-24 points: Your position and company rock. If you can combine it with people you like, a career path and a manageable commute, consider putting pictures up and starting a blog.

12-17 points: You’re doing OK. If you have enough influence to implement some things to help in the trouble spots, you could be seen as a rising star and get promoted.

6-11 points: HR life support needed. The cost structure alone means you won’t be there in two years.

0-5 points: You had already scanned the jobs and posted your résumé before you found this article. Good instincts. Play on.

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