Many workers spend the bulk of their career trying to avoid dealing with human resources, seeing it as a combination principal’s office/courtroom. That’s too bad, because there’s a lot that HR can do to better your career, provided that you know how to use this function correctly.
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First things first: the role that HR plays in any organization depends largely on the level of autonomy and strategic freedom it enjoys. If the sole role of the HR team in your organization is administrative in nature, there’s little you can expect from them, but if you are lucky enough to be working in an organization that values the function, HR can be a powerful ally to have. Here are a few ways HR can help you:
1. Explain your benefits, even the one you did not know about.
Because it is their role to negotiate, manage, and administer benefits, HR is expected to stay on top of this information. They will have the most comprehensive information on all policies that exist and if you take the time to reach out to your HR representative to understand what your benefit scheme looks like, chances are you will be pleasantly surprised with the information you did not know. (Did you say cellphone reimbursement?) They could also help share crucial cut-off dates (official and real) and eligibility information to add your beneficiaries/opt for benefits.
2. Help you in your career.
a. It’s true. If you have an HR Generalist (HR Business Partner) or a Career Development Manager in your organization, it’ll help keeping them posted on what you are up to and where you want to go. In most calibration meetings (otherwise known as performance evaluation meetings), HRBPs represent the groups that they support. It is their job to keep the process adhered to the guidelines, identify anomalies of performance, advocate for employees based on pre-established criteria and conduct due diligence. Example, let’s say that your organization has a rule that employees who “exceed expectations” three or more times in a given period, should be promoted to the next level. HR is expected to vet the data, identify and highlight all such candidates even if the manager has not put them up for promotion.
b. They are also aware of open roles and have more visibility in the criteria for internal transfers and opportunities that you would be interested in. Discussing options with them can help you get an idea of what roles to look for within the company. However, if you are going to be an attrition risk, the HR rep will inform your manager. Depending on the value you add to the organization, they may also try and retain you by identifying roles that may be a good fit for you.
c. They are also responsible to ensure you are being paid appropriately. Every organization has a compensation philosophy and HR is responsible to uphold that philosophy. So if you are being underpaid, HR will advocate for your salary to be leveled up to the role that you are performing.
3. Help resolve conflicts.
Employee engagement is one of the key responsibilities of your HR rep. If there are conflicts within the team, after your manager, the HR rep should be your go-to person. If your manager is the reason for the conflict, go ahead, approach HR — they are here to help. However, please note that there will be an investigation to make sure your accusations are valid. If they do turn out to be true, HR can take appropriate action — redeploying or even letting your manager go.
4. Explain policies, concepts.
If you want to understand how your salary is arrived at, which factors influence your rating, or how you could explore a different work arrangement and the impact it will have on your benefits, your HR rep would be able to help you understand the nuances and advice you on your best options.
5. Be your advocate.
If you report that you are being harassed or are being treated unfairly, HR is bound to investigate the whole issue. They will also protect you from any retaliation. It is their responsibility to ensure that your rights as an employee are maintained in your place of work.
Please Note: It is important to remember that HR works in the best interest of the business and not an individual employee. Employees should not expect everything they share to be kept confidential, especially if the information shared has the potential to impact the business, both positively or negatively.
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