Regardless of all the good they do, HR remains one of the most hated departments in the workplace today. The stereotype is that HR is only there to support the company and not its workers. Employees believe since HR is the department that conducts terminations, that they’re always seeking ways to get rid of people or get them into trouble. Likewise, they feel as if HR will always side with the employer when it comes to employee mistreatment. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In spite of what many employees believe, HR isn’t constantly looking for offenders to punish. They’re there to mitigate liability whether it’s for the employer or the employee. Eden Cheng, cofounder of PeopleFinderFree, stated, “in other words, their job is to enable, develop employees and create environments for people to be and do their best.” She added, “HR creates policies simply to protect the interests of the employees so that their work can continue unaffected by any external disturbances.” Without the workers, the company simply wouldn’t exist. Thus, HR exists to bridge the gap between executives and employees to create a cohesive workplace.
Here are three common misconceptions you may have about HR.
They Make All The Decisions Regarding Employees
Many employees fear HR because they’re the department that disciplines. While HR does lead terminations, layoffs, organizational change and disciplinary action it doesn’t mean they’re the ones who’ve decided it. Nick Chernets, CEO of Data for SEO, said, “one of the biggest misconceptions about HR is the degree of freedom they have. Employees often get frustrated with HR about certain decisions, but HR often doesn’t have much choice.” In fact, Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love, explained, “HR is only as powerful as the executive management allows it to be.” At the end of the day, HR initiatives and ideas can be blocked by leadership and there’s not a lot they can do. Marissa Letendre, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, writer at My Resume Seed, said, yet, “because HR is usually involved in the conversations surrounding difficult decisions within an organization, they’ve gained a reputation as being responsible for them.” The reality is, HR’s role in these discussions is to advise on things such as the severance package, legalities and ensuring everything is in order.
Additionally, HR doesn’t decide the salary or promotions for an employee. Greg Vike, founder of Roof Scapes, explained, “HR is given a budget to work with, and their decisions are based on it.” Typically the CEO and board have the final say in an employee’s salary package. This is why it’s crucial for leaders to own their decisions when communicating change to employees rather than placing blame on HR to dodge accountability. Blaming HR perpetuates the negative stereotype surrounding the department and takes away from all the good that they do.
They Only Care About The Employer
Aside from providing coaching, recommendations and support, HR is also there to ensure employees are being treated fairly. Jennifer Foster, managing editor for Authority Astrology, explained, “when an employee raises a problem at work, such as discrimination, bullying, or unfair treatment, HR strives to resolve it.” She went on, “the company wants its employees to behave ethically at work, while a mistreated employee wants to be treated fairly and have their complaint handled.”
Despite how much HR advocates for its people, employees assume HR isn’t there for their best interest. This is because they’re not aware of the actions HR is taking behind the scenes. Action, whether disciplinary or not, can’t be taken until all facts and information is gathered. Moreover, HR needs to work diligently to get buy-in from leadership before they can move forward. Similarly, when complaints are made by the employee to HR, employees don’t always understand what all is required when conducting an investigation.
HR Isn’t A Strategic Position That Provides Value To The Company
Traditionally, HR handled the administrative functions of the department. Recently, due to technology, administrative tasks have been automated so HR can focus more on strategy.
HR is far more involved than recruiting and benefits. In fact, HR handles a variety of complex tasks that are critical to the success of the business such as
- Training and employee development; reskilling and upskilling
- Nurturing the company culture
- Handling employee issues (discrimination, harassment, bullying, conflict, etc…)
- Coaching managers and leadership
- Compensation benchmarking and analysis
- Onboarding new employees
- Working with departments to establish career paths for roles
- Ensuring the company is compliant with documents, policies and decisions
- Creating a workplace rooted in diversity, equity, wellness and inclusion
- Facilitating communication between C-suite and employees
- Planning events to engage employees, and more.
As the need for culture becomes more of a priority for organizations, employers are looking to HR to lead the future of work. As such, HR has shifted its focus to redefining and reimagining what the future of the workplace looks like, especially as companies go hybrid. Moreover, as companies struggle to attract and retain talent in one of the most candidate-driven markets to date, HR must find out-of-the-box ways to convert top talent into tenured employees. Furthermore, HR is increasingly relying on data to learn more about where their current talent stands in terms of turnover, engagement, productivity, and more, in an effort to retain them against the competition.
While no two HR departments are alike due to the organizational structure and needs of the company, it’s worth reaching out and creating a relationship with your HR department. You might learn they’re not as intimidating as you may think.
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