The people profession encompasses a wide range of responsibilities, so naturally there are some misconceptions about this important department.

We’re here to help you sort fact from fiction and get a clear view of human resources. If you're falling foul of these common beliefs, you may be missing out on the opportunity to join your ideal career - or to become a better HR professional. 

Check out the common myths that surround this integral part of every organisation…




HR Merely Listens to Employee Complaints

This myth seems to be perpetuated by poor HR practitioners and those who have had a bad experience with them. Some employees can feel that HR merely pays them lip service when listening to complaints, but that’s not how the process should be functioning.

Even small complaints should be investigated where possible as they can compound into much larger issues. It’s important to note complaints too in case documentation is required at a later date.

The employee may make a complaint in the moment and then wish to redact it, but even then it’s important to record and monitor the situation.

HR shouldn’t just provide a sounding board for disgruntled employees; they should actively work to remedy situations and investigate allegations.


They Exist Solely to Protect the Company

While it’s true that HR practitioners work to document and provide policies that protect the employer, they can also benefit the employee too. Where an employee highlights workplace issues like discrimination, bullying or unfair treatment, they can work to solve this.

This serves the interests of both the employee and the employer, as they both have the same common goal. The employer wants their staff to act ethically in the workplace and a mistreated employee wants their complaint to be solved too.




They Can’t be Strategic

Companies that bring HR into the boardroom and use their insights can harness the full power of understanding their people. They have the potential to act strategically and weigh in on important decisions using real evidence.

HR isn’t just the fluffy department that ensures all employees act nicely; they also use analytics to drive change in the workforce.

More and more, HR practitioners are using data to get involved in the decision-making process. HR initiatives have a very real impact on the bottom line, as issues with productivity, employee engagement and staff turnover are costly for any business.


HR Works Alone

While many day-to-day HR tasks are kept confidentially within the department, HR shouldn't work alone.

It’s easy to form this impression due to the confidential nature of some HR work. However, HR should work strategically with other departments and the C-suite. Working in a silo impacts the efficacy of the HR department; if they’re not sharing their findings then other departments can’t act on them.

Organisational goals also have to play into the HR strategy, which involves collaboration with others. Growing departments, increasing productivity and succession planning are all key goals that require HR intervention.


All HR Departments Function in the Same Way  

When moving from organisation to organisation, there can be many differences in the way in which the HR department works. Some organisations give this department freer rein than others and, depending on their needs, they may have more generalists than specialists.

The functions that the HR department undertakes are very much aligned to the overall company vision. While there will always be an element of policy, employment law and investigation involved in HR, the exact proportions can vary.

It’s not uncommon for the C-suite to be very involved with this department, as they see the value in improving people processes.




Only Specialist HR Practitioners Can Reach Senior Level

While there is a place for HR specialists at a senior level, highly experienced generalists are also a key asset for a senior management team.

Specialists in L&D, employee relations, organisational development and other disciplines can be represented at senior level, but they’re not the only roles that can. Generalists can achieve roles such as Head of HR, HR Director and Senior HR Business Partner. These all-encompassing roles can be positioned above specialist roles to bring all insight into the boardroom in a cohesive way.

It’s also possible to have a passion for a specialism within HR, while also retaining the role of a generalist. While you may choose to get involved in projects involving a desired specialism, you also retain day-to-day generalist roles.


HR is a Purely Bureaucratic Function

We all know that HR requires documentation, policies and clear-cut procedures. However, this doesn’t mean that it's a purely bureaucratic function.

HR are duty bound to document change to protect the organisation, but outside of this they have the potential to effect real change in the organisation. Implementing flexible working, alternative employee leave and creating new roles all fall under the purview of HR – and are a bit more exciting than paperwork!


HR Practitioners Fight Fires

Organisational problems can get to a point where they require daily action to solve, but part of the HR role involves planning to ensure that this doesn't happen.

If an HR practitioner is spending all of their time fighting fires concerning understaffing, interpersonal issues or office conflicts then they’ve not been effective in their forward planning.

Most of these eventualities can be planned for in advance. With effective succession planning, policies, and management, HR can work in a proactive way rather than reacting to challenges as they appear.




They Simply Repeat what the C-Suite Decides

Part of the HR function is to communicate change, and this often comes from the C-suite.

However, HR professionals aren't just mouthpieces for the boardroom; they're often integral in the decision-making process. It’s becoming ever more common for HR to provide the solution to the C-suite, rather than the other way around.

Furthermore, HR shouldn't just relay information about a change; they should help staff understand why changes have been implemented and what impact they might have. Facilitating clear and empathetic communication between HR and members of staff is much more important and valuable than simple repetition of a message.



HR Practitioners Learn On-The-Job

The nuances and subtleties of working in HR do come with practical experience, but that’s not the only bank of knowledge that HR practitioners should be drawing on.

HR professionals should also complete CIPD qualifications to give them the theoretical knowledge and understanding of best practice that they require to do their job.

A stable understanding of the laws and theories that underpin HR gives practitioners the confidence to take action, suggest improvements, and move beyond their own experience.

They can then supplement their qualification with professional experience to become an all-around HR superstar.


The HR function is often misunderstood, but we hope that we’ve dispelled some of the most common myths for you. Human resources can be an incredibly rewarding profession, and outdated beliefs shouldn't hold you back from what might just be your dream career.


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