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Kasmin Cooney

Righttrack Consultancy

Managing Director

Read more about Kasmin Cooney

HR departments – are they user friendly?


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. 

2 Responses

  1. If HR is a separate business, it should be outsourced

    The idea that HR should perceive itself as a separate 'business within a business' is asking to be outsourced.  It almost blatantly declares – we are different to everyone else – we need our own purpose statements etc.

    HR is really two distinct sets of activities – 1) the management of employment through delvering compensation, benefits, procedures etc, which it does directly; s) the development of an effective workforce which it does through others by providing training, guidance and support etc.

    The 'comp & ben' side is mostly process and is frequently outsourced – if the second is perceived as also being 'separate' from the business, then it too should beoutsourced. 

    I tend to think that most activity for developing an effective workforce needs to be central to the business and not 'separate – its a bit like having a separate brand for the marketing team – why on earth would you do that?

    I agree that ensuring people are clear about HR purpose is critical – but surely that comes from effective cascading of goals and strategies from top management: HR needs to design it's work to deliver on these goals and strategies – not its own idea of a business policy.

    In My experience working with many senior HR professionals, the most succesful HR directors work very closely with the business, and are not empire building on their own.  BEWARE – if you follow such a route a CEO could well imagine you are a prime candidate for outsourcing.


  2. Keep it simple, Keep it brief, Keep it real

    I do think that some HR departments do make it unattractive for others to engage.  In my micro book Punk Rock People Management I explore 3 design principles that help HR to get it right through:




    Further details and a free copy of the book via or book us for a masterclass on what the analogy of Punk Rock can teach businesses. To sample the approach, have a look at what BBC News said about it via

    Good article – thanks


Author Profile Picture
Kasmin Cooney

Managing Director

Read more from Kasmin Cooney

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