Crystal Spraggins, SPHR
Bad HR has become a bad, sad cliché. The situation has gotten so dire, hardly anyone actually expects great things of HR anymore, because that would be like expecting a used car salesman to be honest, or a professional basketball player to be faithful—it just isn’t happening.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A competent, courageous, and supported HR professional (or two) could do awesome things for your organization. Awesome.
But instead, HR just drives everyone crazy. Here’s why, as well as some ways you can stop it from happening.
- HR gets stuff wrong all the time.
Errors in paychecks, bad information about benefits, misinformation about basic employment laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), missed compliance deadlines, and sloppy, choppy, ineffective hiring practices make your employees wonder who’s more capable—the Keystone Cops or the folks in the HR department?
SOLUTION: Set your standards high, and make changes if they aren’t being met.
Has your company outgrown its HR talent? If so, it’s time to get serious about employee development. You say you’ve never had a “real” HR professional and have no idea how to find one? Hire a consultant to help you out. The HR function serves a need, and it’s hurting your business to let that need go unmet.
- HR doesn’t have any answers.
Need training recommendations? The solution to a tricky employee relations issue? Perhaps you’re wondering whether the company’s contribution toward your health savings account will be counted as taxable income? Whatever your question, HR doesn’t seem to have any answers. Eventually, employees stop asking.
SOLUTION: Insist that continuing education and good customer service are more than “nice to haves.”
Good HR professionals know a lot about a lot, and the knowledge didn’t fall from the sky. Instead, the best HR pros can claim a commitment to life-long learning, because stuff is always changing, and employees want (and deserve) answers.
That said, no one knows everything, and that’s where customer service comes along. If HR doesn’t have the answer, they should be darn sure to inform whoever’s asking that they’ll get the answer—and then promptly follow through.
- HR focuses on stupid stuff.
Your staff has serious problems that need attention. Bad management. Underperforming employees. Overworked departments. Tight budgets. Lagging sales, or maybe, all the challenges that come with rapid growth.
But, while everyone else in the company is sorting out the important issues, HR is in a corner somewhere trying to drum up participation for an upcoming CPR training that no one asked for, no one needs, and no one wants to attend.
SOLUTION: Invite HR to the party.
If HR is focusing on matters of insignificance on a regular basis, it’s probably because they don’t have any matters of significance to handle. Why not? HR pros provide a much-needed and unique perspective to your company goings-on. HR understands your culture, and they know a lot about your employees. If you’ve hired wisely, HR also knows a lot about your business. Put that knowledge to good use.
- HR is powerless to resolve problems.
Frankly, your HR department has no juice. Toxic manager? Oh well. HR is sympathetic but can’t offer more than a listening ear and a box of tissues.
SOLUTION: Give HR some juice.
Employees really do need someone to have their backs every now and again, and it’s to your benefit when they do. If an employee can’t get his issue addressed inside the organization, he may be motivated to go outside the organization. Not good.
- HR can’t keep a confidence.
It’s an open secret at the company that HR is full of gossip mongers and other untrustworthy types that no one in his right mind would ever entrust to keep a secret.
SOLUTION: It may actually be time to clean house.
Oh man, this is bad. An HR professional who blabs employee business simply may be unsuited to the job. This is HR 101.
Yes, there are many ways for your HR department to get it wrong. But, there are many ways to get things right, too. Turning your department’s reputation around might be a matter of new talent, improved talent, more support from you, or a combination of the above. But whatever it takes, it’s worth it.
Like I said. Awesome.