An informal discussion with a valued mentor led to the title of this entry and the revised tagline for this blog. We had a discussion about one of my hobbies, home brewing, and the conversation evolved to “HR neat” and “HR on the rocks.” It struck me quickly how apt the terms are.
To the uninitiated, bless your healthy livers, ordering something neat is simply a glass with the spirit in it. Whiskey neat is, ideally, a two-finger pour of Pappy van Winkle 23-year-old Reserve, unadulterated. On the rocks would be the same with ice or, if you’re like me, over frozen “whisky stones.” The advantage of pouring over ice is that it “tames” the alcohol, allowing one to taste more of the spirit. However, as you would presume, the liquid gets diluted by the ice and whatever impurities the ice holds. The slower and shorter the pour, the more dilution.
When I imagine HR neat, I imagine an established program staffed by educated, experienced HR specialists. Employees are well-versed on their labor rights and responsibilities and the organization compliant. Aside from human ineffability, the HR professional’s day is fairly predictable. Every day, they pour the two fingers of HR into a chilled but empty glass, and the result is pure. In other words, like a glass of Pappy’s 23, it’s rare to the point of fictional.Plus, like Pappy’s, it doesn’t fit to everybody’s taste.
HR on the rocks, in contrast, is human resources diluted by biases and incomplete information. There are many HR-related concepts that are constantly in flux and many more that are perceived truths but, in actuality, couldn’t be farther from. Without an understanding of all the pieces of HR, the program becomes diluted to the point of impotent and unappetizing.
The flaw in the neat and on the rocks analogy is it presumes HR as the only significant ingredient. Lumping the other organizational functions into a “dilution” category trivializes the importance, so I think it wise to consider HR as part of a cocktail. Each ingredient in the function of an organization, like each ingredient in a cocktail, serves an important purpose. For example: rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters makes a Manhattan. Swap the vermouth out for absinthe, and one has a Sazerac. Change the quality of the vermouth to rubbing alcohol and one has something pretty nasty. Upgrade the rye to Pappy’s, and one has a Park Avenue Penthouse (okay, I’m making that part up).
So, over the next few weeks, as I (over)analyze several HR concepts, it will be served as and quite possibly with a cocktail.