Saturday, 4 February 2012

Rise of the HR Robots

We're told daily that youth unemployment is getting worse in western economies, and I feel bad for those poor sods fresh out of uni' who simply cannot get a foot on the first rung of life's ladder of employment.

I've heard all the theories about why this is the case, the economy is shagged, Keynes was right, no Hayek was etc. I've also heard politicians from the left and right sides laying the smackdown on each other...Saying that more taxpayers cash should be spent to give kids a chance or else we're heading for a lost generation and social problems.

The truth as always is a mish-mash of everything...But I have my own special theory as to why the young are suffering especially badly in this recession, and that is the Rise of the HR Robot.

Many years ago, HR were called Personnel, and their job was to look after the welfare of the personnel employed by the company or public body. Personnel was probably seen as a limiting title because for seemingly no other reason, Personnel decided to call themselves Human Resources. Personnel sounds nice, it sounds like that care about you as a person...Human Resources sounds like you're just a cog in a machine, a resource to be used and abused. You're no more important than the pallet fulls of raw plastic that the firm turns into car door inserts etc.

The HR department has also usually been farmed out from the parent business and given to some faceless firm that does nothing but specialise in HR...Naturally this is supposed to maximise efficiency and allow for economies of scale, but sadly means that you cannot simply wander along to the nice people in the personnel office and talk to them about what you want on a friendly level, oh no...You have to ring Darren at Fartwell & Piss Associates in Salford.

Darren is 25 and thinks he is the son of God...He also wears one of them pink stripy shirts with a white collar and cuffs...One of those shirts that makes you want to put him in the boot of your car, and push it off a cliff. Darren will tell you who you want to recruit and why, and will endeavour to get the best of the best for you.

Darren, like all the HR Robots having decided that you want the best of the best of the best all the time, (in order to maximise and incentivise the workforce and extract maximal granularity from the drilled down issue. He's probably also touched base with an SMT somewhere along the line in order to focus on your needs...Touched base! Touched cloth more like.) Darren will specify that any applicant will need a minimum of 3 years experience. Darren is advertising for your post online, as do most HR firms these days.  Hence a million and one people can apply for every job, without the hassle of putting together a letter, printing it out on the dot matrix (or heaven forbid hand-writing it), popping it into an envelope and affixing a stamp...Using your best hand-writing to make it look like a 12 year old hasn't written it etc.

Nope. Your CV and covering letter is one of hundreds if not thousands of near identical pieces going direct to Darren's inbox. So in order to reduce his workload, if your CV does not have 3 years experience so you are in the bin...Simple as that.

If you are a young person looking for work in the UK at the moment, and you don't have any connections, you will not get past the HR Robot. Your CV is worthless. Without being given a chance, you will never get the 3 years experience required...And even then if your experience is voluntary or heaven forbid something like building a Cisco network for the people on your street, then it's still worthless against somebody who has gained their experience for money.

My concern is, when the current generation of people who have the required 3 years experience etc, retire and/or die...Who will the HR Robots recruit then? Everybody fresh out of uni' of course. So for about 10 years you're going to have a generation of people who cannot got a job, and then when jobs are available, they will be 30+ with no experience and on the scrapheap again because firms will want dynamic cutting and thrusting young 20s. As if the 30+ scrapped people weren't cutting and thrusting 20 somethings when the arbitrary cut off of 3 years experience doomed them to a life of unmet expectations.

My other concern is, the HR robots are simply condemning people on a whim. They shouldn't have the right to do this. They are stifling creativity and killing off the culture of risk by not being prepared to take a chance on somebody. You might have the  worlds most gifted and talented middle manager ever to have existed out there sat in a bedsit or living with mum...But you'll never know they are because they haven't got 3 years experience. 3 years is not some magical age when the big book of life is handed to you. 3 years is enough time to develop bad habits, enough time to get cocky and arrogant, and enough time to piss off your co-workers...Yet the HR Robots would now consider you one of the anointed worthy of having your CV read.

I have a beef with these faulty valves in the employment system, limiting flow into the workplace, choking off opportunity. They're too far removed from personnel these days, and seem to think that some of my friends, who are recently redundant RAF personnel who have seen and done more than most people on this planet, are somehow not worthy of being training officers for a metal bashing company because they do not have 3 years experience as a training officer for a metal bashing company. No, but they have been a training officer for a large military college that churns out some of the best graduates in the country you robotic arse. They deserve more than you chucking their world class experience into a bin.

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