Human Resource Professionals are in a tough position. The represent employee concerns to management and management concerns to employees. They are often both employee and management themselves! They are the ‘gate-keepers:’ the people who are aware of the state and federal regulations that organizations are supposed to adhere to in order to be compliant with the laws of the land. They straddle the line and are in no specific group, while supporting every group.
They live in a fish-bowl like atmosphere where colleagues expect them to ‘walk the talk’ and serve as examples for the behavior they advise others to model. HR can be a strategic partner and support the organization in accomplishing its objectives. When it operates at its’ best – that’s exactly what it does.
It can be especially disappointing when HR folks don’t have the professional discipline to execute their role well. It’s disappointing when the folks in HR indulge is gossip. When employees observe that HR isn’t objective when conducting an investigation, it serves as a warning to everyone involved. It can be frustrating when training programs or coaching services are provided without a clear understanding of how the outcomes tie back to job performance or whether the services were evaluated to insure that the recipients found them useful.
I spent several years as part of the HR department before I started my consulting firm and many of my clients are the folks in the HR departments. I know how hard it is to straddle the line and often serve conflicting parties. It can be a lonely department. And while HR is not a profit center, they do
· Recruit and retain employees, and when done efficiently, reduce the cost of hiring and turnover
· Shop for the most cost effective health benefits while finding packages that attract employees
· Reduce lawsuits by providing compliance, management, and safety training
· Stay current with laws, regulations and maintain the required records
· Provide or outsource training and development, supporting in-house succession
I’ve seen HR professionals indulging their personal needs at the expense of their organization s and colleagues. They have forgotten that they are not like every other employee. They are not supposed to talk about what they do because most of it is confidential. They are charged with supporting everyone: management, employees, and the laws and regulations, even if (and when) those might conflict with one another. It isn’t easy but that’s the job.
It’s why there are professional associations (HRPG, CHRA, SHRM, ASTD, ODNet). It’s helpful to connect with others who can support you and understand challenging the HR position can be.
Human Resources might be well served to conduct a simple audit annually. All they really have to do is ask two simple questions:
· What is HR doing well?
· Where can HR improve?
It takes focus, energy, skill, and discipline to straddle the fence and serve so many groups with different needs well, and to do it professionally, with energy and enthusiasm. How does your HR professional measure up?