It seems there’s no shortage of HR bashing or critical comments about the value of HR lately. I really enjoy the articles from the academic community who have never worked in an HR capacity at any level.
The article that fired me up was Company Says You Should Thank Us, Employees Barf. The gist of the article was that benefit statements were mailed to employees’ homes. One of the points raised was that employees felt their intelligence was insulted because they can figure out this information for themselves, thank you very much. In addition, because the final number of the “hidden salary“ was displayed in the document in bold and a larger font than the rest of the document, employees felt there was an underlying “you should be thankful you work here” message. The exact word describing this document was “propaganda.” Since HR generated and mailed the document, then it would be suitable to kill the messenger. The thought that’s left with the reader is that by sending the benefits statements to employees, HR was attempting a global schmooze before revealing their sinister plan of… well, something bad. Because these employees were just too smart, HR’s schmooze attempt had failed.
Recruiters complain about HR — there are webinars and blog posts for job seekers on how to get the attention of a hiring manager and avoid HR. Although I agree with networking processes for jobseekers to communicate directly with hiring managers, using words, like “avoid” just pushes HR deeper into a negative stereotype.
Take this example: A young professional is introduced to HR during their onboarding and become acclimated with relevant issues related to their employment as well as the goals and mission of the organization. Outside of meetings and hallway greetings, the next time this person encounters HR is when a new group health plan is being introduced to the organization and, by the way, the rates have gone up and the benefits have been decreased. In addition, if this person is part of a downsizing or disciplinary investigation, or even knows someone who has been, they know that HR is involved. It doesn’t matter how well HR carries out these actions — they can be life altering and destructive to a human being. Our young professional’s only memorable reflections about HR are negative actions and events.
If you’re an HR hater, open your mind and understand there are parts of the role you’ll never know about that often require timely reactionary measures – I like to call it the “clean-up” crew and it usually involves managers who shirk their own leadership responsibilities to their employees. Although it’s best to be proactive, working with humans does not always permit that luxury so there’s a lot of listening coupled with empathy and objectivity. In the end, it can be a very gratifying experience to improve the communication between employees and managers so that everyone plays nice in the sandbox.
The final thought is that HR does not sit around making unilateral, company-wide decisions on ways to demean or placate employees with things like benefit statements. Most company-wide initiatives are made in collaboration with the CEO. The CEO then delegates the execution of the initiative to HR – that’s called Management 101. It may not always be the most rewarding part of the job, but it’s part of the job.
Feel free to share your thoughts.