Misconceptions About The HR Profession

Feb 24, 2014 1 Min Read

In HR Talk, we pick a human resources (HR) related topic and gather a few HR experts to share their opinions on it. If you have any questions about the HR industry, do drop us an email at mystarjob@leaderonomics.com. We would love to hear from you.

VIKNESH NAMBIAR, -Human resources director,


DEANNA YAP -Deputy general manager, talent, organisation and performance

DKSH Malaysia Sdn Bhd

A Google search on the myths and misconceptions about HR churns out about 373,000 results in 0.31 seconds. Go to a dinner event, mention you are from HR and guests will let you in on the latest trending topic: 50 reasons not to date a Human Resources person.

The one mostly joked about is, “When they want something from you, they will call, email, leave a post-it and make you miserable until they get it”.

As HR professionals, we sometimes wonder if we should sigh or laugh at these stereotypes, but most of the time we take it in good faith, as most professionals usually do.

But perceptions persist. Here are five myths and misconceptions we have recently heard:

No. 1

Myth: HR people don’t know numbers.

The absolute truth: We may not be accountants but it is a critical skill we must possess in HR.

Having nifty skills with financial spreadsheets also helps and provides that little edge to process numerical or financial data in order for us to analyse data to make informed decisions on how and what will impact the lives of the people we look after, whether it’s a small five man set-up or an organisation with thousands of employees.

No. 2

Myth: Any “people” person can do HR, it’s a no brainer.

The absolute truth: HR professionals have to have great passion and commitment.

Most of the time, we are exposed to many scenarios that require a great deal of patience, strong values and unassuming confidence.

Most corporate websites will have the common line stating that people are their most important assets, and that is the truth.

An organisation exists today because of its people but to be successful in any job, you need an acute understanding of what’s happening around you.

You don’t necessarily have to be a “people” person to have a career in HR, but it helps. It is a sum of all parts – the hard and soft skills.

A keen understanding of facts and research, coupled with a deep sense of understanding what the organisation’s business is about is crucial.

We listen to what employees want and what management can give, yet work to sustain the growth of the organisation in a pragmatic and solution-centric way – whether it’s through the initiatives, policies or practices we implement.

No. 3

Myth: HR is a “yes” person for management.

The absolute truth: All HR professionals work hard to make ends meet and to create a healthy, competitive work environment for the employees we answer to.

It isn’t always easy getting to work only to be met by an avalanche of emails or questions from employees of all levels demanding to know the whys, whos, whats or hows – and they want the answer now.

It’s not always about saying “yes” or “no” – it’s about making and contributing to the winning solution for all stakeholders.

There are times you have to make a call which may be unpopular, but will in the long run, bring the success the business needs.

No. 4

Myth: HR is all about administrative and routine tasks, nothing strategic.

The absolute truth: HR has evolved from being an administrative function to a strategic portfolio in recent years. Talent management has been the buzz word of the decade and it is probably the most complicated strategic plan as it involves dealing with human beings who have very different wants and needs in their career path.

Hiring, retention, talent pool management, training, job rotations and remuneration of talents are some of the examples of the strategic initiatives that HR professionals deal with on a daily basis in ensuring that the most important asset of the organisation is engaged and in return helps increase productivity for the organisation.

No. 5

Myth: HR is only for women.

The absolute truth: HR is a very fair profession and has no gender bias. There is an abundance of men who are leading HR functions in many large multinationals and government agencies today.

While focus seems to be on the women agenda, there are still a few good men whom we should not disregard as well.


PwC Malaysia

The first myth is that we’re all “people” persons but not business persons. While a certain degree of empathy and good interpersonal skills are necessary to do your job, understanding of the business that you’re supporting is vital if you want to be taken seriously.

We take the extra mile to learn more about our business and the industry in addition to keeping abreast of trends in managing people – which is why, contrary to what many people think, we don’t get to go home at 5:30pm.

This is second myth about the profession. We too have late nights and weekend work as well.

What keeps us going are the diverse people we work with which leads me to the third myth.

You don’t need to study HR to do HR. My fellow professionals come from varied backgrounds because our job is not just about managing people.

It’s also about numbers and technology, coupled with an understanding of organisational behaviour.

This helps our internal clients translate their business objectives to effective human capital strategies.

The fourth myth is that it’s lonely in HR if you’re male. Famous HR practitioners include Datuk Seri Idris Jala, CEO of Pemandu and even our managing partner Sridharan Nair, who once assumed the human capital partner role in our assurance practice.

The final and fifth myth is that you can’t become the Big Kahuna in your company.

Although it’s the road least taken, HR professionals should aspire to C-suite level positions and why not CEO? After all, HR means business.

DATIN BADRUNISSA MOHD YASIN KHAN -Group chief talent officer

Axiata Group Bhd

1. HR is something you can learn at university.

I am wary if someone graduates with an HR degree and expects to be an HR professional overnight.

HR is not only about understanding HR tools and processes. More importantly, it’s about understanding the business and its imperatives and which HR tools and processes to select to ensure the business wins.

2. HR is only about looking after the well being of employees.

HR is a lot more than this. What is more important than the hygiene factors of pay and benefits, is how to keep your employees motivated and engaged, so that they can perform their very best.

3. HR is a dead-end profession.

HR is a very important part of an organisation; as important as the other professions.

HR is now recognised as part of the leadership team, where they can contribute to the strategic decisions of the company, as much as sales and marketing is.

4. You don’t have to be creative to be an HR professional.

HR is a creative profession. HR has to think out of the box in creating winning people strategies for the business.

5. HR is a thankless job.

If HR focuses on bringing the best out of people, developing them to be the best they can be and respecting them, how can any employee not thank HR?

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This article is published by the editors of Leaderonomics.com with the consent of the guest author. 

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