Unrealistic expecations of the modern L&D and HR pro

There is a thing I am noticing in HR and L&D circles. It’s a tough one to nail or to highlight in a helpful way. And I’m not pointing fingers – and trying very hard not to as well.

But there’s a thing. A credibility problem which I’ve been attuned to for a while now, and it concerns me.

See, as more and more people start to use social media and social networks in a professional capacity, and are seeking to gain knowledge from lots of different quarters, what we are inadvertently doing is creating unrealistic expectations of what we want and expect people to be capable of.

Job ads are becoming an endless list of knowledge base and skills and experience which is practically impossible to fulfil – unless you’ve had an incredibly dynamic and varied career, and if you’ve had the high fortune of quality mentorship and coaching, and you’re in an organisation where you can accomplish 30 completely distinct and separate activities all within 8 months.

This isn’t a stab at any recruitment oversights, it’s more of a comment about unrealistic expectations and unclear expectations. It seems recruiters and hiring managers are seeing buzzwords aplenty, theories and models galore, have demanding expectations, and want everything packaged neatly in that one diamond in the rough.

This is more of a look at where that might have come from in the social circles we all inhabit. Just a cursory look at my different timelines today and there are articles written about:

  • evidence based management approaches
  • emotional intelligence
  • communities of practice
  • social learning practices
  • innovation at work
  • HR apps and apps and apps
  • better recruitment practice using digital means
  • employee engagement
  • workplace benefits
  • leadership

Which are all good topics to be reading about and learning about.

Except it also builds an unrealistic expectation amongst practitioners that they must know about these things (and so much more). Not only that practitioners must know about these things but they should also be seeking ways to include these plethora of things in their work practise and if you don’t, you’re somehow not worthy.

The challenge, of course, is that these things are done by and fulfilled by different people fulfilling different roles. As it should be. It is too difficult being a jack of all trades, master of quite a few, and having generalist knowledge of a lot of others – the expert-generalist may be the new normal for many, but it’s not the normal for the mainstream.

And as with many of my blog posts that I write, I often end up exploring as I’m writing. And what I’m reflecting at the moment is that we need to give more considered and purposeful thought to what roles we think we’re asking people to fulfil, having realistic expectations of what that entails, and not expecting it all to be fulfilled by one person.

Wasn’t that always the case?


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

One thought on “Unrealistic expecations of the modern L&D and HR pro”

  1. Hi Sukh – another great article, really enjoy reading your thoughts! I completely agree with this. In HR everyone is calling themselves an HRBP which is actually a really hard role – perhaps too hard? What HR or learning professionals are now expected to be across is overwhelming. I’ve long thought people management positions should not just be a 1 person role. This is definitely something that requires a rethink! Thank you for posting.

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