Is HR an Art or a Science?

May 2, 2017 Sarah Payne

Do we use our left brain or right brain more in HR? Is HR more about squishy, feel good moments or the cold, hard metrics behind the madness?

It’s a little bit of both, according to HR influencer and WorkHuman speaker John Baldino. He’s the founder and CEO of Humareso, a provider of consultative human resources services, and he has spoken at various WorkHuman regional forum events this past spring.

Read our full interview with Baldino below, or listen to the WorkHuman Radio podcast embedded at the top of this post (where you’ll hear more about his love of hammer pants).



Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work at Humareso?

Professionally, I have been in human resources for about 27 years, specializing in leadership development. I’ve been doing a lot of strategy work as well for the last 16 years in organizational design and development, workforce planning, and executive coaching. Personally: married, three kids, all teenagers. It’s a crazy house, and I think sometimes work is my escape from that, but I really do like my family. Promise.


And you have a dog, too, right?

I do have a dog. The dog is probably almost as famous as I am, right? We have a little black half-Doxan half-something else that we rescued from a pound and his name is Champ. He is now blind, and he is a dog that doesn’t bark and is really good and even if he annoys me he just keeps wagging his tail.


Is human resources is an art or a science? Why?

I think it’s a bit of both. I was fortunate enough to do my graduate work at Villanova University, and I have a Masters in Science, which is unusual in HR. I really believe in metrics, in measuring things. I think as a discipline we sometimes get scared by that.

When I was in college, folks went into HR because they weren’t great at math, and that has stuck with people. I think that we have done a disservice to our industry in that way. We should be able to define what we see. We should be able to test it.

But I would also say HR is an art because you’re dealing with people. There is a humanistic standpoint to it, and adding A and B may not always give you the same result. I liken it very much to kids that are raised in the same home, with the same parents, and the same set of rules and expectations. That doesn’t keep those kids from being expressive in their own way. It doesn’t keep those kids from either bucking against the system or accepting it and moving forward.


What are the biggest challenges your clients are facing this year?

Retention and recruitment are huge issues. Candidates are not as plentiful as they were five years ago. And then it’s a question of what are we doing with the folks that we’ve got and how do we keep them without begging for them to stay? Some organizations just keep giving raises and perks, and all of a sudden they’ve priced themselves out of any return on that investment.

We also need a better focus on the startup community, figuring out ways in which we can leverage their innovative ideas. Human resources can partner in bringing those startup concepts and companies together with larger, more established organizations.


You hosted a webinar with Globoforce on feel good recognition moments. Why is recognition so important to building a human workplace? Do you have a favorite recognition moment – either given or received?

I do have a favorite recognition moment, and I would say that it’s more a time in each job that I’ve held. It’s usually when I’m leaving. Often when someone announces they’re moving on, folks will say, “Hey, we’re really going miss you.” Or they will share with you how you challenged them and there’s really an emotional connection there. It’s unfortunate that sometimes this don’t occur until it seems like a natural time to do it, like saying goodbye.

Coming back to your first question, recognition needs to be put into practice as a daily discipline and for some of our cultures, we’re really at ground zero. We’ve got to start with the basics. We’ve got to build a different workplace based on recognition, give people an opportunity to look to the left and to the right and see what someone is doing, and how their work has made an impact and take the time to say, “Thank you, I really appreciate what you did, and there’s no way I could do what I’m doing if you didn’t get that done as well as you do, as quickly as you do.” That changes the tonality across the company.

It isn’t just because it makes you feel good emotionally, though that’s part of it. It makes you feel good to know that you’re connected to the company. Coming back to retention, that’s a smart way that recognition can be used as part of your overall retention strategy.


What is one fun fact most people don’t know about you?

Back in college, I used to dance at a club and I was up to be a backup dancer for a summer tour. I would not say I’m trained in any way, but folks probably didn’t know that about me.


What sets WorkHuman apart from other HR conferences?

WorkHuman positions itself in such a way that, while it is a conference by title, it doesn’t function as one. There’s a very collaborative spirit. There are qualities of humans that get examined there that may not necessarily fit within a more traditional conference agenda. And you really remember the fact that we lead people. We are connected to people, and you don’t have to keep that separate from your strategic goals. There are great conversations and you guys always do a beautiful job of sparing no expense in the way in which you approach the people that are there. You make them feel like a million bucks, and that goes a long way.

Is HR an Art or a Science? @jbalive #workhuman
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