Why the World of Harry Potter Needed More HR
Summer is winding down in the Northern Hemisphere, and children everywhere are heading back to school. So, naturally, this gives us an opportunity to discuss Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and everything else Harry Potter-related.
OK, truth be told, I’m always looking for a way to discuss Harry Potter, and it just happens to be back-to-school time. What can I say, I’m a Gryffindor who works at a Hufflepuff company.
Whether you’re a Harry Potter junkie like me or not, the story is a cautionary tale of what happens when organizations lack HR leadership. (If you’re one of the six people who haven’t read the books, spoiler alert!) So, without any further ado, grab your quill pen and parchment, and take note of these five proofs that the world of Harry Potter sorely needed more HR.
1. Hogwarts was in serious need of better recruiting
In the seven years covered in the books, not one Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor lasted more than a year, and each had clear limitations:
While not all of these professors were incompetent, and some of them had legitimate reasons for leaving, it’s still almost impossible to believe that there weren’t more qualified candidates available—candidates who could’ve stuck around long term.
Dumbledore’s hiring strategy for the position seems to have been “go with the opposite of what makes sense.” Or perhaps he was one of those foolish hiring managers who decided to hire based on his gut. Regardless, a proper HR manager or recruiter could’ve helped Dumbledore expand his pool of recruits by attracting more qualified applicants, suss out the weirdos, and hire competent professors.
On my way to Hogwarts!
2. Dolores Umbridge was unhireable
Apparently, the Ministry of Magic isn’t much better at recruiting than Hogwarts.
We could write an entire blog post devoted to the HR catastrophe that is Dolores Umbridge and her sadistic ways (but I can only handle talking about her for so long before my blood pressure spikes). How does somebody like Umbridge ever earn a job—let alone a high-ranking role—in the Ministry of Magic? Further, how could anybody think she’d work well with children?
If a screening process was used to hire Umbridge (which I doubt), it certainly wasn’t a very good one. Umbridge hated children, and proved it by abusing her students, promoting bully culture, and consistently showing a lack of empathy with policies designed for her benefit rather than those she served.
Later in the stories, we found Umbridge—a half-blood witch, no less—back at the Ministry of Magic leading wide scale persecution in the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, where she heartlessly prosecuted many innocent wizards and their families (more on discrimination below).
A proper HR leader would’ve made sure Umbridge was never hired in any capacity. If they couldn’t prevent it, they would’ve disciplined her for her inappropriate behavior (read: terminated), and they would’ve made sure Professor Trelawney received a proper exit interview, not the public embarrassment Umbridge created when she fired her.
Me and my favorite witches at Privet Drive.
3. Hogwarts clearly needed better performance management programs
While none of us are certain what Dumbledore spent most of his time doing (how much time can you spend experimenting with dragon’s blood?), it seems pretty obvious what he wasn’t doing: managing performance. Consider professors like Severus Snape, Cuthbert Binns, and Sybill Trelawney.
Professor Snape held grudges with his students and did very little to engage them in the learning process. Frankly, he was rude. A performance review here and there could’ve easily improved the situation. Maybe he’d never be as personable with the students as other professors, but in seven years, he doesn’t appear to change one iota in the off-putting way he does his job.
Professor Binns was the epitome of boring. History is a subject that is less interesting to some people, sure, but he was so dry and lifeless (literally!) that he seriously hindered his students’ abilities to learn important wizarding history. Frequent performance efforts would’ve helped identify him as a candidate for termination or, at the very least, retirement (again, the man was dead!).
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Professor Trelawney is a quirky lady, no doubt. That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s not adequate for the role she fills as a Divination instructor (if anything, it’s probably expected in that line of work). But there was clearly a lack of accountability in the Harry Potter books. How is it that nobody in authority was aware of her tendency to predict the death of her students (to the students themselves!)? Decent performance management programs would’ve identified this dangerous habit immediately and eradicated it.
(As a side note, can we discuss the rewards and recognition programs at Hogwarts? The arbitrary nature of the House Cup point system was the recipe for a student body filled with resentment and a lack of engagement. I love the end of Sorcerer’s Stone as much as anybody, but the point system is obviously unfair.)
The world of Harry Potter drinks: good. The world of Harry Potter HR: bad.
4. Certain employees were given unsatisfactory benefits
Can somebody please explain to me how Arthur Weasley was always so poor? Maybe he wasn’t very high up the ladder at the Ministry of Magic, but he was there for a long time, and they are, after all, the main governing body of the British magical community.
And yet, based on the Weasley family’s standard of living, the Ministry grossly underpaid Mr. Weasley, and they appeared to offer very few other benefits. Mr. Weasley’s poor wages are most likely a reflection of the Ministry’s views on Muggles—since he worked in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office—but their prejudices do not justify the poor treatment.
Also, we can quibble over whether a werewolf should teach children, but if Hogwarts was going to hire Professor Lupin, he deserved better medical treatment. Rather than receiving special care for his condition, Dumbledore’s plan was apparently to force Lupin to receive medical treatment in the shadows from Snape. And something tells me Snape’s bedside manner was less than ideal.
A proper HR leader would’ve made sure every employee received fair and competitive salaries and other benefits, regardless of their popularity or propensity to howl at the moon.
See, I was really there! Sort of.
5. Discrimination was rampant in the Ministry of Magic
To be clear, this is a Ministry of Magic issue, not a Hogwarts issue. Dumbledore, for all his HR failings, understood equality. He employed half giants (Rubeus Hagrid), squibs (Argus Filch), ghosts, werewolves, centaurs (Firenze), and humans of goblin descent (Filius Flitwick). Let my last words on Dumbledore come from JK Rowling (via Elphias Doge): “Albus Dumbledore was never proud or vain; he could find something to value in anyone.”
On the flip side, as we discussed briefly before, the Ministry of Magic had serious issues with Muggles and other magical races. Can you remember any non-humans working at the Ministry of Magic? Exactly.
While it seems evident that the wizarding world suffered from delusions of grandeur for many centuries, widespread discrimination came to the forefront of the Ministry when Pius Thicknesse became the Minister of Magic (in Deathly Hallows). During this time when Voldemort ran the Ministry from afar, and the organization adopted the motto “magic is might,” monuments were erected to depict the magical community’s right to rule over Muggles, and those who opposed this view were imprisoned.
Unsurprisingly, this culture of hate and prejudice almost lead to the complete unraveling of the wizarding world in Britain. Had effective HR leadership existed during the period covered in the seven Harry Potter books, the wizarding world would have been much less vulnerable to these evils, and countless lives may have been spared.
Luckily, the “boy who lived” saved the day, and many years later, the Ministry would be ready for a Muggle-born Minister of Magic (Hermione Granger). But not before a whole lot of unnecessary troubles came into the world of Harry Potter. Troubles HR could’ve helped prevent.