It’s an all too frequently heard complaint that HR all too often fails to command the respect it deserves. So what is the solution? And what can you – as an individual HR professional – do to change the situation?
This was the topic of the first monthly meeting of the Greater Cincinnati Human Resource Association (GCHRA) HR roundtable, which took place in January 2012. Click here for some background detail on the GCHRA.
I’m extremely grateful to Steve for his kind permission for me to share the minutes of the January 2012 HR roundtable meeting with XpertHR’s readers.
Steve describes himself as a “strategic HR professional, lover of all rock music and confessed HR Radical.” I’d highly recommend you check out more of what Steve has to say. You can see a list of links to recommended further reading from Steve at the bottom of this page, and you can also follow Steve on Twitter and connect with him via LinkedIn.
Steve Browne & the GCHRA HR roundtable: If HR is so bad, what are YOU doing about it?
The January chapter meeting took an unexpected turn when we had to switch topics, but it led to a very interactive session where the meeting attendees shared insights with each other on the topic of – If HR is so bad, what are YOU doing about it ??
Each table acted as their own small group and discussed the two following questions:
1) Why isn’t HR respected by others?
2) How can we change that and be respected?
The energy level lifted as people began to tackle this topic and they were excited to share their thoughts once we reconvened. Here’s their amazing feedback !!
Why isn’t HR respected by others?
- HR is seen as tactical instead of strategic.
The question around this is twofold: (1) Do we like being tactical? and (2) Do we seek to be strategic regardless of what our culture “allows”? No one usually asks the first question, but you have to wonder if HR enjoys the tactical side as a comfortable position to work from that people may not desire to be strategic. Much of being strategic is being intentional and moving forward regardless of the culture we work in. It is possible !!
- HR doesn’t leave their office.
Mind you, this answer came from a room filled with HR people. This is a generalized statement and isn’t true for many HR folks, but the perception still haunts us. It gives us a great opportunity to work with that is very easy and tangible so that this never comes up in the future !!
- HR is the group that fires people.
If HR is either the bearer of this news, or we make it happen, it’s hard to move past negative feelings. One thing to learn from this is to understand that decisions like this change people’s lives. We should never be cavalier about this. It is a fact of what we do, but it doesn’t have to define us.
- HR is a “necessary evil.”
Makes you want to go into HR doesn’t it ?? This comment was followed about how HR is overhead and doesn’t add to the bottom line. Again, another opportunity for us to show that we limit liability, reduce risk and bring consistency. If that’s “evil,” then we need more of it !!
- HR is the policy police.
There is a distinct difference between being an enforcer and allowing people to perform within the parameters of your systems. You need to ask yourself which approach you are following if you wish to avoid this moniker.
- HR shows a lack of confidentiality.
Ouch !! Really ?? This needs to be immediately remedied if it’s true in your corner of the HR universe. It’s unacceptable. Nothing else to really add to that.
- HR has no tangible skills.
If people feel this, than whose fault is that? The HR people I know are amazing, talented and skilled in many things. This needs to be more effectively modeled and communicated. Others tout their expertise, and so should we !!
- HR is only an extension of Senior Management.
There is truth to this statement, but it shouldn’t be exclusive. Great HR should be like Switzerland in a company. Being objective between both staff and Senior Management is ideal.
- HR has a lack of confidence.
When you hear comments like “HR doesn’t know the business” or “HR doesn’t show value” – it’s truly a reflection of being seen as meek. Staying silent isn’t a positive trait when it comes to HR. We represent all of the employees of a company and our voice should always be heard. Senior Management looks for it and expects to hear from their HR people.
- HR is disconnected internally and externally.
This is a harsh reality that is truly a shame. People don’t like to be disconnected, and yet HR does its best to be an island vs. being integrated. This is true inside the four walls of an organization as well as when it comes to being connected to other great HR professionals.
How can HR be respected ??
- Do the opposite of the items listed above.
There is credence in this statement, but it needs to be either more than that or actually different than that because this is how people still see HR. The group had some other really solid answers that amplify a different approach to just doing the opposite.
- Give people context.
It’s okay to let people know “why” things are happening. In fact, if you do this, much of the ambiguity that may be clouding a situation will lessen, if not go away all together.
- Be intentional.
People perform better when things are clear, and HR can go a long way to making things happen by moving forward vs. bobbing and weaving when situations occur.
- Be consultative and not a barrier.
This is a great approach to HR whether you are a practitioner or a consultant. Showing people solutions and opportunities is a much healthier way to thrive in the great profession we have !!
- Be positively visible !!
This was such a cool answer. Not only be visible, but positive. In this day and age of rampant cynicism, you can choose to be positive. It’s a great way to enjoy all aspects of HR and life in general. This isn’t a self-help, ignore your surroundings approach. It’s honestly refreshing and people respond to those who are positive in HR much better than those who are not.
The chapter meeting took on new life in January because the great attendees who came had the answers. This is the case at all chapter meetings !! It’s great to hear from experts, motivational speakers and panels, but don’t lose sight that there are incredible untapped resources in each one of us in HR !!
Read more from Steve Browne:
- Everyday People Steve’s always excellent blog.
- Steve Browne & the GCHRA HR roundtable: What are the key competencies for HR in 2011?
- Steve Browne: If I Could Change One Thing About HR…
- HR rocks: Steve Browne on why it’s OK for HR to have fun
- Steve Browne on the WIFO approach to HR
- LeadHRship: Steve Browne on the art of sustainable leadership
Here we reproduce the comments on this post submitted by readers of XpertHR Employment Intelligence:
What a great post! It sounds like a really great discussion happened and a lot of great ideas came from it. I especially agree with the last two points about what HR pros can do to be different. It is *so* important to be positive about what you do!
Posted by Jonathan Hyland | February 14, 2012 1:29 PM
Good post Steve.
One action all HR professionals need to take is to ban all HR paperwork and/or forms that managers find no value in. Many HR offices are administrative nightmares that are filled with HR people who love to create new forms and rules so they can look like they have done something. HR people need to realize that good businesses will run by themselves without HR intervention. When an HR intervention is needed, it does not mean to put some rule/policy in place. People follow people, not policies.
Anytime, I have a form/procedure that I am asking a manager to complete, I stop and ask why? If I can’t come up w/ a reason that supports our company strategy then I don’t do it.
Look forward to hearing more Steve.
Posted by Ben Martinez | February 15, 2012 4:01 AM