A key factor in successfully delivering on your mandate is obviously stakeholder engagement, and for the human resource department, the most obvious stakeholder is the employee.
The other two prominent stakeholders whose interests also need to be satisfied are the employer and the regulator (who many just call Labour). But these two stakeholders (and their interests) are often not considered when the employee evaluates the performance and impact of the human resource (HR) department.
As it turns out, the typical employee dislikes, mistrusts and avoids the HR department, associating it with various disappointments that s/he experienced during the course of his or her employment. This is a concern. If the employee continues to report dissatisfaction and disengagement in the various surveys we conduct, even if the employee’s sentiments and observations are subjective and unfounded, the bottom line is, the HR dashboard is impacted.
Typically, employees think the HR department exists exclusively to promote/protect staff interests. Not many understand the role of the department includes operating as a strategic partner to the business.
The reality is, sometimes advocating for employees and driving strategy means one stakeholder must yield to the other, and where that stakeholder is the employee, in the eyes of staff, the HR department is a failure and a sell-out. Let me admit that unfortunately, yes, there are some organisations with very poor HR functions whose quality of work compromises the credibility of HR everywhere. But, while we are on the subject, let me also acknowledge that there are very difficult employees out there whose delivery consistently defies the most sophisticated development plans.
Fortunately however, the vast majority of HR departments, and employees for that matter, are doing the best they can and their organisations are better places because of them. What are the most common objections that our stakeholders advance against the HR department?
l HR Employees Are Incompetent
Users go to HR only to find inexperienced employees with little experience working in a professional HR office. These inexperienced HR staff then struggle to answer user queries about policy application, programme availability, contractual obligations, amongst others. This is because there are still some organisations that don’t recognise HR as a profession and expect to be able to transfer or re-deploy someone from a different department, or discipline, to HR, believing that HR is just clerical and anyone can figure it out.
l HR Employees Are Dishonest
Employees complain that HR staff don’t always tell the truth about how they handled
This happens typically in those work environments where HR is seen as just an extension of office administration. Decisions are made informally. Information is casually passed along the grapevine. Agreements are verbal, to the extent that there is no documentation, and no standard record management in place.
l HR is Biased and only cares
about Management’s Interests
Employees complain that HR cares only about the interests of the company and the managers, saying that, in any employee complaint situation, HR will side with the manager the majority of the time.
Typically, this scenario manifests in organisations where there is no employee recognition platform, either because the staff have not participated in the initiative to have them represented, or because the HR function has been restricted to administration and nothing more.
In world-class organisations, ethical behaviour is an integral value. Also, staff development, motivation and engagement are taken very seriously so any issues staff raise are addressed categorically such that over time, staff concerns and complaints are more constructive and beneficial to the team as a whole, and less about self-promotion and fault-finding. Unfortunately too, and this must be said, much of the good done by the HR office for the staff is done in private. The lobbying and appealing for individual cases, for instance. The HR professional is never going to say, ‘look, I have personally sat with the CEO over your case to appeal this but he is adamant you have to leave’.
There will be instances where the HR person has to talk policy and avoid the personal, and while that is the professional standard, to the employee it comes across as cold, uncaring and siding with management.
These perceptions and sentiments represented above can easily be dismissed as petty and subjective, but if they are allowed to fester in the environment, the HR function will not be seen as a performing department because workplace climate, staff morale, and staff engagement are among the department’s performance indicators. As an HR professional, do everything possible to manage these perceptions. Otherwise, you will not be able to deliver on your mandate.