No one can argue that the role of HR is extremely complex, providing a wealth of services from aligning the workforce with business strategy to supporting new employees with induction enrolment. How an organisation’s community perceives HR will greatly depend on many things, but for me the top three are:
- What does HR stand for, what are their values?
- How approachable are they?
- How do I access the services?
HR is a dichotomy, a creature with two faces. When the service is providing what employees need in the form of well-considered employment policies, generous pay scales, flexible working hours and leave entitlements. Then it is the happy, smiling face we see.
But when HR is involved in withdrawing benefits, cutting jobs and exploiting employees, then the happy face is morphed into a grimace. For many employees, the more negative side, leads to a generalisation and lack of understanding of the benefit of HR. Negative perceptions can downward spiral into mistrust.
For employees to be engaged with HR practices and for the function to be successful, employees need to first and foremost be very clear regarding the role that HR plays and what they stand for.
The HR team that sets itself up as a business within a business, with a brand and clearly defined values, that echo the motives of HR, will fare better than those HR functions who fail to communicate their purpose. If employees understand the motives and can align these with published values, they are more inclined to be motivated to use the service and value the HR contribution.
HR should be about the well-being of the people, as well as strategic partnering. Employees need clearly defined access routes to the HR services provided. Where possible and depending on the size of the organisation, access will include a range of different options, so employees can choose the route appropriate to them and the urgency of their situation or question.
Options including the allocation of HR business partners or HR officers to each function, HR web chat, access to HR using the company intranet, HR help desks and specifically designed and scheduled HR drop in centres, or surgeries, can all assist with providing easy access.
Further reading: Is Google the new HR department?
Small businesses, which do not have the resources to establish a range of access routes, may choose to implement a consultative exercise, before deciding, so that employees have a say in what options maybe preferred.
Whatever the access route, a clearly defined customer service policy on how ‘customers’ will be dealt with will also help to provide a consistent level of service. As with any highly focussed customer service environment, the service will benefit from regular evaluation. The service will also benefit from regular feedback from customers, either on-line, or via a drop in centre or surgery.
Providing all HR partners and officers with bespoke, customer service and soft skills development, in addition to having a high degree of understanding of HR policies and procedures, will pay dividends. Developing an appreciation of how to ‘live’ the HR values within this development plan, will ensure that a consistent message is being put out with every interaction.
Lawrence Bossidy, of General Electric fame, once said “I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”
If we are to develop and run healthy, successful businesses then we have to ensure that our HR facilities are user friendly and we develop strong partnership with our organisation’s communities.