Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
It may be difficult to know if you can trust HR, or how HR supports employees when it comes to difficult situations. Maybe you’re being bullied. Maybe your manager isn’t playing by the rules. Or maybe you feel like your employer is treating you unfairly.
Through the people, professionals, who work within it, the HR function helps an organisation deliver its corporate strategy and objectives by effectively recruiting and developing people and managing their performance.
In simplest terms, the HR (Human Resources) department is a group who is responsible for managing the employee life cycle (i.e., recruiting, hiring, onboarding, training, and firing employees) and administering employee benefits.
HR plays another key role. In developing, reinforcing and changing the culture of an organisation. The three major roles in human resources are; administrative, change management, and people management.
Administrative tasks include hiring and monitoring of employees, managing payroll and benefits, and development of policies and guidelines. In human resources, the three Cs refer to compensation, career path, and culture.
Successful HR departments prioritise consistent payroll practices and make sure that all benefits are working for their employees. The most effective HR departments understand the role that company culture, employee development and career opportunities play in employee engagement and retention.
HR is successful when the company has a culture focused on diversity, inclusion, equity, employee wellbeing, employee engagement and career development. HR is successful when employees feel a sense of belonging and demonstrate their commitment to helping the company achieve its business goals.
HR professionals must cultivate an open line of communication with their employees to build trust, boost morale, and promote healthy workplace relationships. Establish an open-door policy and encourage employees to come to you with questions and for problem solving and support.
HR should be more than just the “hiring and firing” department. Behind the scenes, HR is one of the busiest departments in any organisation, handling everything from benefits administration to employment law., HR is also the go-to department for ironing out employee relations issues, when the shit hits the fan.
But is HR ever on the employees (your) side?
Can you really trust HR to fight your corner and treat you fairly? Or are HR practitioners nothing more than COO lap dogs who act only in the interests of the employers?
HR work for your company, not you, it is naive to think otherwise, he who pays the piper? According to Brazen, HR is not on your side. At least, not unless it’s in the company’s interest. In fact, they emphatically claim that “HR works for your company – not you” and warn employees to never assume that their conversations with HR are confidential – but would HR ever admit that?
According to a poll conducted on Twitter, 15% of people our Twitter poll believe HR is on the employee’s side, even Forbes reports that employees should only go to human resources as a last resort. Forbes states that while your HR department should indeed take time to support employees and listen to your concerns, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will take action, or be on your side. If a particular manager is crucial to growth for the business then HR may well overlook any bullying tactics that they’re using.
Protecting employees also protects your organisation
It’s a no-brainer HR ‘work for the company’ and have the organisations best interests at heart. But why should this mean they always have to take the company’s ‘side’ rather than take the employees’ side?
According to TotalJobs, HR supports employees by looking after working conditions, equal opportunities, and staff welfare. It makes very little sense for HR to ignore supporting employees in order to secure a few short-term gains for the company.
TotalJobs also says that it is HR’s job to take care of working conditions and staff welfare. Employment lawyer and HR counsellor Charles Krugel says that legally speaking, HR has no obligation to take the employee’s side. However, the company itself has legal obligations to the employee – and that it is often HR’s job to ensure these obligations are being taken care of.
In other words, HR can take the employer’s side, by actually fighting for the rights of an employee. Or, as career expert Trent Silver from Nerdster puts it, “HR’s responsibility is to always protect the organisation. But sometimes, the way HR does this is by defending individuals within the company, and helping the organisation avoid lawsuits or PR disasters.”
Are there even any sides to take?
Maybe we’re missing the point. Ken Fee is the head of Organisational Development and HR, for Sense Scotland a large charity, managing over 1,000 employees and 500 volunteers. “HR’s responsibility is to the collective organisation” he says. “I’m always mindful of being fair to individuals, but I must also be mindful to the needs of other people in that organisation – people who may not be in the room.”
Fee explains that instead of acting as the mediator between two ‘sides’, HR should be facilitating constructive decisions that push all parties towards a unified set of goals. He says that people need to stop thinking about organisations in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’ – there is only ‘us’, and that’s the organisation as a whole. “HR serves the organisation” Fee explains, “but the organisation includes everybody. Not just the CEO, not just the managers, but also each individual employee.”
It’s impossible to determine which side HR is on for every company in every situation. Some HR departments do indeed act on the behalf of the employer rather than the employee on most occasions, while others serve the far nobler role of stewards of organisational justice. Every HR department is only as good as the individuals within? Some people are good others not? However, I think it is naive to think HR are on our, ‘your’ side.
HR has no legal obligation to take any particular side, they should protect the rights of individuals – as this can, in turn, protect the company’s interests. Managing employee relations is a difficult subject to approach, HR need to undertake it with care, transparency, meticulous organisation and impartiality, with the companies, (including the employees), best interests at heart. Failure to do this, consistently, will have destructive consequences.
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