HR & Tech Writing: Separated at Birth?

By on 7-28-2005 in Technical Writing

Why We Hate HR

Another good read from Fast Company, counting all the ways in which corporate personnel departments are failing.

Toward the end of the article:

In the meantime, economic natural selection is, in a way, taking care of the problem for us. Some 94% of large employers surveyed this year by Hewitt Associates reported they were outsourcing at least one human-resources activity. By 2008, according to the survey, many plan to expand outsourcing to include activities such as learning and development, payroll, recruiting, health and welfare, and global mobility.

Which is to say, they will farm out pretty much everything HR does. The happy rhetoric from the HR world says this is all for the best: Outsourcing the administrative minutiae, after all, would allow human-resources professionals to focus on more important stuff that’s central to the business. You know, being strategic partners.

The problem, if you’re an HR person, is this: The tasks companies are outsourcing — the administrivia — tend to be what you’re good at. And what’s left isn’t exactly your strong suit. Human resources is crippled by what Jay Jamrog, executive director of the Human Resource Institute, calls “educated incapacity: You’re smart, and you know the way you’re working today isn’t going to hold 10 years from now. But you can’t move to that level. You’re stuck.”

Hmmm….sounds familiar to us tech writers, doesn’t it?

Tech writers lately like to talk about what a benefit a formal certification would be (e.g., increasing documentation quality, ensuring employers hired qualified professionals, etc.) Well, the Human Resources profession has had their certification for years, and if the Fast Company article is to be believed, then it hasn’t made one lick of practical difference. Certification doesn’t prevent professional idiocy.

Tech writers also like to talk about protecting the profession (usually thru certification) from corporate bottom-liners who just want to outsource every single non-executive function, but most especially tech writing, to outside firms. Doesn’t seem to have helped the HR staffers who were career paper-pushers (the HR equivalent of the tech writer who can only format and pretty up other people’s content).

Perhaps they should read Tom Peters’ “Brand You.” Or perhaps not…the space they vacate will simply make a bigger one for someone who knows how to actually contribute.