HR and HR Vendors: The Lonely Goalkeepers of the Business

I only played one year in junior high.

That would be soccer (or football for the rest of the world). I loved it, but loved American football and baseball more, and was better at them.

I played fullback — I wasn’t fast enough to play a forward or midfielder, but still of the collaborative mindset to work with them all to get the ball back down the field to score, while of course helping the goalkeeper defend our goal.

Mercy, the goalkeepers’ goal is a very lonely one.

HR is like the lonely goalkeeper

Very lonely.

I never thought about how lonely until I listened to The Loneliness of the Goalkeeper on Radiolab.

Eleven players on the field, but only 10 work in concert — the other one, the goalkeeper, works as a team of one to prevent the ball from going in the goal, to make saves.

We may not remember the saves, or give credit to the goalkeeper, but when the ball is missed, we never, ever forget.


That’s the nature of soccer, though. Has been for thousands of years.

This is sort of like Human Resources — in what feels like thousands of years. The fact that HR is still seen in many companies as the lonely goalkeeper in the back office, working in isolation to save the company from compliance faux pas and bad hires.

They may not get credit for the good hires, when everyone else involved in the process does — recruiting, hiring managers, executive management, department heads, etc. — but when it comes to finance and other lines of business coming to call out the cost center HR has historically been, bad hires get a helluva of a lot attention.

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HR needs to get more involved in the business

The flip-side of loneliness is for HR to get more involved in the business across the business and make sure everyone in the business is aware of what HR is and does for the business.

Get it?

Like what Ron Thomas shared in Building a Brand: What Would Your HR Department “Elevator” Pitch Be? here on

My thought has always been that HR should pitch their services throughout the organization. Every employee should be aware of the ‘services’ that we offer.

During onboarding, HR should make a strong pitch about the products of HR. Right now it seems that the initial paperwork is the defining moment of what we are about. However, there should be a strong focus during the onboarding process about the product called HR and the benefits derived from making use of its services.”

HR vendors can help out, too

HR vendors can be just as guilty of not thinking broadly for the benefit of the business as “team.” After talking with a well-known industry research firm this week, we’re continually amazed as to why the companies aren’t enhancing their software to include true:

  • Business collaboration features (that include finance, operations, IT, supply chain, sales and marketing, etc.)
  • Business mobility features (across various software and hardware platforms)
  • Business workforce analytics (that tie to finance, operations, IT, supply chain, sales and marketing, etc.)

I’m not talking about just cobbled together workforce modules, business vaporware ,and dog-and-pony marketing smack. And when the system goes bad a few years after implementation do to poor integration and/or utilization (not all the vendors fault), the customer doesn’t remember all the “time and money” saves — only the missed long-term marks of system success while total cost of ownership goes sky high.

So it’s like the HR vendors are playing back at the goal with HR while the rest of the business kicks the ball back and forth trying to score, score, score.

Let’s change the rules and put the team back into business.

This was originally published on Kevin Grossman’s blog at Marcom HRsay.

Kevin W. Grossman is the Talent Board president of global programs responsible for all aspects of the Candidate Experience Awards worldwide, the first nonprofit research organization focused on the elevation and promotion of a quality candidate experience. He also produces and hosts multiple “world of work” podcasts including The CandEs Shop Talk and WorkingTech. A certified Talent Acquisition Strategist (TAS) and Human Capital Strategist (HCS) by HCI, he has over 19 years of domain expertise in the human resource and talent acquisition industry.