My friend Steve Browne (@sbrownehr) posed a question and a challenge to all HR professionals to answer this simple question: “HR would be better if ______________.”
So, here is my response:
HR would be better if “human” was put back into Human Resources.
Back in the day, we were known as the Personnel Department. Why? Well, my thought is that the perception is that all people in our position did was processing employee paperwork – you know, new hire documents, benefit enrollments, payroll, etc.
When the switch in title was made to Human Resources is was to bring attention to the fact that our employees are just as much a resource in the company as the equipment we use…and those of us in those roles were their “spokesperson.” Suddenly, HR folks were getting involved in much more than just paperwork. We were involved in performance reviews, disciplinary meetings, creating recruiting strategies, conducting employee training…all kinds of things that got us away from just being known as the “paperwork” department.
We jokingly started being called the company’s “police officer” for enforcing the Employee Handbook or the “counselor” because of our open door policy welcoming employees to come to us with their problems or issues. We were the “go between” for the employees and their managers where we played referee during problems and career coach during motivational sessions.
Suddenly, the fact that we weren’t a “profit center” for the company didn’t matter – managers were seeking our opinions and upper management was inviting us to participate in planning sessions. As a result, HR pros dove into ideas and strategies to improve their day-to-day responsibilities and position within the company. We sought out new technology to utilize, setup new procedures for recruiting, welcomed Internet-based applications to help with benefit enrollments…and so much more. And it made sense as the rest of the world around us was embracing automation thanks to email, the Internet and smartphones.
And that’s where we went off course…
The personal touch that we had become to be known for started to fade.
> When it came to recruiting, we began to rely heavily on the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that we setup to help us sift through candidate resumes so that we didn’t have to read them anymore….and potentially lost out on some great candidates who didn’t know how to “use the system” to make sure their submissions were considered.
> We sat back and let LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Bullhorn….all these social media sites where we could post jobs do the legwork for us to find new employees. After all, everyone is on social media right? And if they want to work for us, they will see it and reach out to us, right?
> We stopped using our email’s automated response option to send a “thank you” to candidates when they forwarded their resume to us because we didn’t want them to have our direct contact information and start reaching out to us.
> We stopped following up on interviews after the fact to let candidates know that we had chosen to pass on them.
> We stopped requesting to hold company-wide meetings to talk about new benefits or open enrollment and opted for email blasts with links to websites for “any questions” and to enroll directly.
> We pulled back from asking our employees their thoughts and opinions on improvements to their job. Why? Either we’ve been too busy with other things that have become a “higher priority” (meaning, will help US look good in our jobs) or we have a better idea what they need anyway because of all the suggestions we see from our peers on social media.
> We worried more about cost to the company than overall benefit to the employee because we wanted upper management to keep viewing us a team player rather than an employee advocate. We knew better…we knew what we should be suggesting to help attract higher caliber candidates and increase retention of our current employees but we feared loosing that relationship with the boss that we were enjoying.
> We focused so much on “getting a seat at the table” that we forgot that its the employees that should be our first concern…and our focus.
We forgot about the “human” side of Human Resources that we were supposed to be known for.
So, its not a matter of what would make HR better in my eyes – its a matter of getting back to the core of who we are and why we became so good at our jobs: the communication and the personal touch we had with our employees. Let’s face it: HR plays a key role in an employee’s happiness on the job and longevity with the company. We bridge the gap between the employee and management. We keep the communication lines open and build up trust & loyalty with the employees.
And we shouldn’t be afraid to loose our status as “Strategic Partners” simply because we push for better for our employees. A Department Manager will go to his boss when he feels a new piece or equipment or upgrade will help improve production. Our argument should be no different. We represent the “human” equipment of the company – without which there wouldn’t need a need for the physical equipment. Our position is of more importance when we put it that way.
HR Professionals everywhere! Get back in touch with your employees and candidates. Now more than ever that personal touch can have the greatest impact: at branding the company, at building its reputation, and at building a strong employee base…and you are a huge part of that!
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