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Before we begin, it is important to understand that HR is the conduit between ensuring employee engagement and well-being and achieving business results. Like you, employees in the HR team also work for and in the interest of the organization. So be prudent while approaching HR.
Your manager should ideally be your first point of contact, but where you feel that your manager cannot help you, is a part of your problem, or you need a larger organizational perspective (policies/practices), you can reach out to HR.
Here are few pointers that may help you answer the confusing question: “When can I go to HR?”
- When there is any form of discrimination: Whether you are a victim or a witness. Discrimination in any of these categories is prohibited by the laws enforced by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, coverage of these laws varies by type of organization and employment. Some states have further guidelines. Refer here for details.
- Information on company policies, processes, benefits: For a thorough understanding or comprehension of company policies and practices, benefits plans, it helps to reach out to Human Resources, who are generally the "custodians" of the company policies.
- Violation of company policies: Refer to your employee handbook or company code of conduct. Any violation of the stated terms of conduct can be brought to the notice of HR. Examples include denial of valid leave requests, favoritism, etc. Because HR will investigate before taking any action, it will help if you have sufficient proof for your allegations, for instance, email trails, other witnesses, etc.
- If you notice anything illegal: If you notice any health and safety rules violation, regulatory violation etc. go to Human Resources. HR works closely with the legal team in most organizations and can help with your concern.
- Understand how performance ratings and compensation are decided: HR cannot give you any information about specific people in the organization, but they can tell you how things work, generally, within your company. Examples of questions you may ask include: “What is the rating system followed?,” “What is the process for deciding on a rating?,” “How is compensation benchmarking done?,” and “What are the factors that affect compensation increase?,” etc. The extent to which the information can be shared varies from company to company and your HR representative will follow the terms of confidentiality for your organization.
- When there is a possible change in your work status: Examples include: you want to go part-time and want to know how that would affect your benefits or salary, you have a health situation for which you want protection under FMLA, you are planning a long leave and want to understand your options, you are moving to a different function/geography, and so on. Having said that, if your changed status impacts the business, then HR can and will share this information with your manager.
These are a few instances where you would reach out to HR as an employee. As a manager or a business leader, there are plenty more reasons to reach out to HR. Stay tuned to hear more about those specific circumstances in future posts.
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