Please, BlackBerry, let me type ‘HR’

My BlackBerry doesn’t respect the human resources profession. Neither does yours.

By Todd Humber (

My BlackBerry doesn’t respect the human resources profession. Neither does yours. Oh, it’s not a “hit you over the head” kind of dissing — it doesn’t make disparaging remarks about the return on investment of training programs or snicker during talk of the benefits of investing in wellness initiatives.

It’s more of a subtle dig. If you have one clipped to your waist, you probably already know what I’m talking about. The BlackBerry simply won’t let you type “HR” — not in an email, not in a text message, not even in a BBM instant message.

It insists — and it does this every single time — on changing “HR” to “hour.”

Research In Motion (RIM) Co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie smiles as he poses with a PlayBook tablet computer and a Blackberry Torch. (Photo: Aly Song/Reuters)

This doesn’t happen with any other profession. It lets me type accountant and “CA” without feeling the urge to step in and correct me. I can thumb my way, uninterrupted, through “DR” and doctor.

Pick an occupational acronym, no matter how obscure, and the device won’t flinch. IT? It practically types that itself. There’s also a healthy dose of respect for the medical community — emergency medical technician (EMT), registered nurse (RN) and registered practical nurse (RPN) all get a green light.

It doesn’t mess with organizational acronyms — federal government agencies such as Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) all pass muster.

So why no such love for HR? Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, founders and co-CEOs of Research in Motion (RIM), the company behind the BlackBerry, surely understand the importance of good HR practices. The company’s headcount has exploded over the last decade.

In 1998, it had about 200 employees. By the end of fiscal 2010, that figure had risen to 14,000 and earlier this month there were more than 1,300 positions posted on its job board.

It even set up a booth at last month’s Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) conference in Toronto in a recruitment effort aimed at luring HR professionals to its Waterloo, Ont., headquarters.

So the blame here, clearly, rests solely at the feet of RIM’s programmers. The technogeeks will point out we can set up a custom spell check to circumnavigate the “HR-hour” problem. True, but that’s not gratifying — revenge seems more apropos.

In that spirit, here’s a memo to RIM’s hour department, on behalf of hour professionals worldwide… hold on a second. Where’s that button for the custom spell check?

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. For more information, visit


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