It’s Not Always Our Fault

First week back at school and of course my job is BEYOND crazy.  After a quarter in the program, I feel lthe list below is a summary of the some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. Most businesses view HR as a cost
  2. HR professionals need to constantly prove why they, their degree, and their “having a job” is important and matters to a business (cue the book I am currently reading “The HR Scorecard”)
  3. We need to learn skills other than HR (hence why I don’t think I am taking any functional HR classes until spring quarter)
  4. Most people in a business hate HR (the department and the people working in the department)

I work for University Residences and Dining Services under the Office of Student Life here at OSU.  I specifically work with the Dining Services part…the only thing I do with the University Residences side is forward students and parents to its office when they want to change their meal plan (it used to be University Housing and Campus Dining Services but the two merged and that is why we are in different buildings and in separate units).

I work for one of the biggest departments on campus.  I am pretty sure we employ 2,000+ students alone.  I do a lot of clerical HR (which I thought was awesome because I had HR experience going into the program until I found out in all my books that the majority of what I do is getting outsourced).  Our “HR department” consists of me, my coworker, my boss, and his boss…4 people for 2,000 students.  Technically, 3 because our HR Generalist doesn’t even work in our building and handles the full time HR issues.  Andy (my boss), Ben (coworker), and myself manage the students.  My boss is the Hiring and Recruitment Coordinator, but he handles other issues as well.  He was classified wrong (his technical university title is “Personnel Aide” which Ben and I always make fun of him for) but that is a LOT of people.

What I am getting at is a lot of students in our department hate us, because there are a lot of rules that just slow things down.  But it isn’t our fault.  We’re following “the letter of the law”. Look at these examples:

  1. One day a student came in with a laminated social security card.  We couldn’t do her paperwork…because the social security card was laminated even though you could clearly see the number with her name on it (and that you could also compare to her license).  It is apparently illegal to laminate your SS card.
  2. Same student came back the next day with her birth certificate.  We saved her paperwork so she didn’t have to fill it out again.  But since my boss filled out her forms (and wasn’t there), she had to fill out paperwork again.
  3. Another student who studied abroad during fall quarter came back, and had to do paperwork (OSU takes you out of the timekeeping system for 2 pay periods).  He wanted to work immediately but had to wait a week because in order to start legally working you have to a) be in the timekeeping system and b) not start before your start date.  So if you are in the timekeeping system you have to wait until the start date.  So this guy had to call off 3 shifts (and lose money) because of this rule.
  4. You can’t ask or suggest certain kinds of identification.   Most students will bring in a passport, license, or BuckID to prove their identity.  Many times I will see when a student is about to turn 21 (and you have to get a new license) because their ID is about to expire.  I can’t ask for their BuckID because it’s illegal; however, if that student were to be out of timekeeping system for 2 pay periods that person will have to go through all the effort of bringing their identification in to do paperwork and be put back into timekeeping.  Cue the beginning of autumn quarter in September when 1,000 students going home/doing internships/going back to their home country over the summer and trying to get back into the timekeeping system on the same day.  The first week of school my supervisor and I did over 250 sets of paperwork.
  5. This boy came in to do paperwork and only had copies of his social security card and birth certificate.  We couldn’t take copies and his parents didn’t want to send the originals to us, so his parents have to have his identification notarized and send the notarized copies to the student.
  6. Since I am not a certified tax adviser, I cannot help people do their W-4 (page 3).  No college student knows this information, and I barely understand it, so it is frustrating when I can’t help them fill it out and they get frustrated with me because I am not helping them.

Basically, all those rules I listed are driven by employment law.  We don’t create the laws and policies – but we have to enforce them.  So next time you get mad at the HR department at your organization realize that most of their HR policies and rules are fashioned from laws.  Don’t blame your HR professional…blame your politician.