HR is not Burger King

Last month I kicked off Kansas City’s DisruptHR event with a talk called HR is not Burger King: How to stop letting people have it their way without being a jerk. DisruptHR is a unique event in which the speakers get five minutes to share twenty slides that rotate automatically every fifteen seconds. The audience is full of energy, as they’ve been eating and drinking for two hours before the presentations begin. (I waited to imbibe until after mine and was happy to go first!) Keep that in mind as you watch the video of my talk:

In five minutes, I couldn’t go into any more about the analogy but had the opportunity to talk with people about it since the event. Some people were concerned that I advocate for HR to stop providing stellar service to colleagues. Nope. That’s not it. Here’s the difference:

  • Here’s Burger King: Hold the pickles? Sure! Hold the lettuce? You got it!

  • Here’s Burger King if HR people ran it: You want Chateaubriand ? Sure! You want white tablecloths? You got it! You want a private room? No problem!

See the difference? Burger King offers to accommodate very simple requests within the boundaries of its business model. Frankly, McDonald’s and Wendy’s would do the same things for a customer who asks. Exceptional service does not mean taking orders from coworkers whose requests are far outside the boundaries and who don’t know the full implications of their requests.

For example, in the video, I share a real example about a colleague who demanded HR re-evaluate a job and rate it higher so her candidate’s salary demand could be met. When HR did that, the colleague didn’t think through how her peers or the candidate’s new peers would see that move. (They hated it because the candidate’s lack of preparedness caused extra work on their parts.) The colleague also did not think through how the rankings of all jobs would come across after that. (They lost all credibility.) HR came across looking like we just made up rules and our policies didn’t matter.

When we say “No” by saying, “Well, that’s the policy,” credibility is further eroded. It looks like we’re saying, “No” just for the heck of it or because we’re too lazy to think through a different solution. It would be better to discuss the implications of the requested action than to outright reject it because of the policy—that would be better service.

At its best, HR provides important oversight into many people-related aspects of a company. At its worst, HR diminishes the people-related aspects by taking orders from people who don’t think through the business implications of it all.

HR can provide relevant service and lead the way to solutions. It doesn’t need to take orders like it’s the counter at Burger King.

(By the way, DisruptHR Kansas City was fantastic! Click here to check out the rest of the speakers for more great ideas!)