JFK Quote on “Happiness”: Does HR Strive to Create “Happiness”?

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was quoted as saying, “Happiness is the full use of your talents along lines of excellence.” According to this definition, is it fair to suggest that HR’s purpose is to create “happiness” for employees?

Common View of HR in the Organization

Depending on the organization, HR is often considered as something just short of “evil” (think Catbert from the Dilbert cartoon).  For further evidence of this, think of Michael Scott’s relationship with Toby the HR guy in “The Office” (quotes such as “You suck the life out of everything you touch” come readily to mind).  In these offices, the notion of HR as having anything remotely to do with “happiness” (by any definition) would be laughable.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those organizations where HR is thought of as the “party people”  (e.g., sending everyone into sugar-induced comas on a regular basis with an endless parade of birthday cakes, anniversary celebrations, etc.).  While things that are sweet and tasty certainly impact “happiness,” no one would mistake this for having anything to do with “excellence.”

“Excellence,” really?

What then of “happiness” and “excellence”?

Well, Jim Collins’ (Good To Great) mantra of making sure you have “the right people on the bus, and in the right seats” helps provide perspective, I think. The “right people – right seats” image is probably one of the most apt metaphors for the primary goal of HR, in my mind (at least in the majority of organizations where “modern” HR isn’t at either of the extremes of “evil” or “cakes”).  Whether we call it recruiting, or talent management, or human capital management, or whatever the latest buzzword may be, it all has to do with bringing onboard people who are most appropriate to the needs of the organization — so that they can use their “talents” for the best purposes of the company (i.e., “along lines of excellence”). Thus . . . creating “happiness.”

Who knew HR could be involved in such a thing! (wink / smile!)

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