Not Just Another HR Story: Why HR Is vital to Organizations of all Sizes

By Lynne Curry, Avitus Group

Which of the following do you believe?

You can’t trust anyone in HR: they’ll get you talking, look sympathetic, but then turn everything you say over to management.

HR is a luxury we don’t need because we need all our budget resources to pay the employees who produce.

HR = a partnership for managers, employees and organizations.

HR = lots of talk + little action.


How HR Shoots Itself in the Foot

In many organizations HR has minimal impact. Supervisors don’t let the human resources department know about problem employees until they’re ready to terminate them, when HR intervention earlier might have made a difference. Senior managers rarely invite HR to the table to discuss strategy. A significant number of employees avoid HR, distrusting what might happen if they air their grievances. Some HR professionals contribute to this problem by falsely promising and then breaking employee confidentiality; it only takes one betrayal for the “don’t trust them” word to spread. They fail to balance organizational interests with employee advocacy, when HR needs to serve both groups. They act as if HR certifications trump real-world experience and talk over supervisors and employees who leave conversations with HR thinking, “You don’t get it.”


Time to Turn to HR

HR professionals often wonder why supervisors and managers don’t seek them out before problem employee situations hit rock bottom. The answer? Managers see problem-solving as their job, not HR’s. It isn’t until a capable HR professional proves his or her worth that a supervisor or manager learns to make HR a first and not a last call.

Similarly, how can HR earn a place at the table when senior executives meet to create strategy? After thirty-nine years offering HR On-call services, I’ve learned three answers for gaining trust and thus a seat at the table.

First, I have to prove I know what I’m doing. When I don’t know an answer or strategy, I need to say so and then find the right answer and strategy.

Second, my intent must be clear. I need to make it clear I place their organizational needs first—whatever the cost. For example, when I’m asked to investigate certain situations, I may suggest my client reach out first to their attorney, even if that means the attorney’s staff then provides the investigative services.

Third and most important, I, and any HR professional, need to show we “get it,” that we understand how supervisors, managers, and executives view situations. Instead of expecting managers to join HR’s team, HR needs to partner on management’s team. Finally, we need to contribute in ways that demonstrate our value.


HR’s Future

Some “old-style” thinkers believe HR departments should focus on administering payroll and employee benefits, processing hiring decisions made by others, and managing terminations, layoffs, and Department of Labor paperwork. All true, but HR needs to move beyond these boundaries.

Nothing shows the problem that results from employers and HR sticking their heads in the “HR is only compliance and paperwork” sand more than the #MeToo movement. Thousands of women and men aired long-buried painful stories, igniting anger that swept through many workplaces. Others, feeling unfairly targeted for behavior they believe to be acceptable, fought back.

Employers need HR’s help to address these complaints, many of which take aim at senior managers and others that organizations hope to retain. HR needs to do more than fairly investigate these allegations: it needs to help organizations overhaul themselves at the cultural DNA level. HR needs to make it safe for targets and witnesses to come forward, to ensure that no one is above the law and to hold managers, supervisors, and employees accountable for creating and maintaining a respectful work environment for everyone.

While harassment issues are glaringly obvious, they represent only one area in which HR needs to exercise interventionary muscle. Our workplaces, like our larger world, appears to be coming apart, with escalating amounts of workplace violence and polarized groups who shout at rather than talk with and listen to each other. A truly effective HR may be the one group most suited to help organizations address these needs.

For more information about HR mistakes by companies, click here for a free webinar.

Avitus Group helps companies “Simplify, Strengthen, and Grow their Business”.  They reduce the complexity of managing organizations and help business owners continue doing what they love. After all, this is what most likely got them into doing business. They also create a strong, collaborative structure that allows them to assist business owners in reaching their goals.