My first job out of my undergraduate program was in HR. The market had crashed and I was fortunate to get a job as a temp in an established HR department. I asked my boss at the time exactly what it was that HR did and she said “we solve employee problems for the business”. So, with that, I thought of my job as one of problem resolution. When I got back into HR after being in the mental health field, I walked into a room of business leaders and one said – “here comes Hard Roadblocks”. So which one are we? Problem solvers or roadblocks? I think the answer, actually, is both.
What an HR department is to a company depends on two things. How the business utilizes the department and the philosophy of the HR professionals themselves. Some companies still see HR as administrative “personnel” where all that is done is the necessary paperwork for new hires, benefits and payroll. On the other end of the spectrum are the companies that see HR as strategic partners, asking for input and the human perspective on many business initiatives. Most departments fall somewhere inbetween – providing the necessary administrative input while being asked to the proverbial table for at least some brainstorming sessions.
What largely determines how HR is perceived in the company is the HR Professionals themselves. In all honesty, I don’t always like my peers in this industry. Some are way too friendly, wanting to be friends with everyone and make people feel good (tell tale sign are those that say they are in this business because they like people). Others seem to think this profession is like a police department, setting down rules and enforcing them. Unfortunately, many also don’t understand business so, though creative, they design programs and try to roll out policies that have no relationship with the business or their needs. These approaches make being in HR a constant fight to gain the trust and respect of both the business leaders and the employees. And these approaches are why we are often seen as “roadblocks”.
For me, Human Resources needs to be one of the most neutral places within the company. We need to be keenly aware of business and the bottom line and we need to be patient and understanding, while still being consistent, with employees. This is not an easy position to hold. Too often, management thinks you work for them and are often offended when you support the employee perspective. Or employees feel you are their advocates and so often do not understand or “will never go” to HR if you enforce a policy that they may find unfair. One area I fight this regularly is terminations – I will not sit in on one unless it is my department that is the cause. Managers want me to deliver the difficult news but I refuse feeling it vitally important for me to keep my neutrality. I ensure that due dilligence has been done and that the termination is justified but that is as far as I will go and this often has me at odds with leadership.
So back to the question – HR is both. We are the consistency keepers, making sure there are processes and policies to follow which often is perceived as roadblocks for business leaders trying to push something (or someone) trough. We also should be creative thinkers coming up with ways to resolve issues and bring results that are good for employee and business alike. Harmounious Resolutions…Hard Roadblocks…Human Resources