Is HR really out of touch?


In January’s issue of People Management it was revealed that only 48% of employees knew who HR was and that they had not seen anyone from the function in over 12 months.

I took to Twitter and spoke to many what seemed to be many disgruntled employees, it caused quite a debate! They could not see the purpose of the department or had encountered their HR Manager in not just weeks or months, but YEARS! Some even compared HR to “being on the same level as estate agents” calling them confusing as there are no clear divisions of service. This begs the question, has HR lost touch with its workforce?

HR professionals also voiced discomfort at the findings, stating that the very reason they are part of the profession is to support employees as well at the business, they agreed that more needed to be done to improve relationships and indeed their reputation within their businesses. I 100% agree, it is up to us as HR professionals to get out from behind the desk and get in touch with our people. Since the publication came to light, I myself have made some changes in my diary and also make a point of going around the building and speaking to my colleagues, it is important for HR to be visible as otherwise you’ll end up fading into the beige walls, adding zero value and losing touch with employees.

Is it acceptable that HR are seen as simply too busy with meetings, administrative duties and other commitments that they have forgotten those who they are employed to support? I personally do not think it is and I don’t believe it is the case overall. Many issues can be resolved simply by sitting down with line managers and supporting their requirements to effectively manage their employees. I also think that HR should speak directly to employees to gain a further understanding of company culture and what they need to keep them happy at work (and no, money isn’t always the answer!). A survey cannot replace a relationship, I don’t believe they are effective and I also don’t believe they provide the honest answers needed in these types of situations.

In order for companies to move forward or progress, they must do so with the employees of that business behind them, if they don’t then it’s only a matter of time before the cracks start to show and relationships break down which then creates a divided “them and us” culture and is incredibly difficult to recover from. As Sir Richard Branson said “take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers”. Here are some handy tips that can improve communication and visibility as a HR professional:

  1. Speak to people, pick up the phone and use emails less. Only use an email when required to clarify information
  2. Move around the building, schedule time to go and speak to people, ask them about their jobs and take an interest, we know what they do on paper but do we know what they actually encounter every day
  3. Have an open door policy; going into HR is daunting enough without the locked doors and secret squirrel approach, we’re not MI5! Open the doors and make employees feel welcome!
  4. Get out there! If you have regional sites, schedule some visits and learn about the employees, we recently had our Managing Director go out on a back to the floor style exercise and went out with one of our delivery agents, they get to see what it is really like!
  5. Create an employee forum to meet once a quarter, discuss concerns in an open, non-judgmental environment, this will assist in building trust with the employees and learn what changes could be implemented to make improvements

Only we can create a positive impression of our profession, go out there, speak to your people and be a different story from those within the PM survey.

A huge thank you to those who contributed to my blog post by giving me their views on this controversial topic, by speaking to you I am able to understand the perspectives of others to hopefully inspire HR departments and employees to work together to make improvements. It is up to all of us as we share the responsibilities of our working environments after all.

As always, please feel free to suggest any topics you’d like to see, comment below and I look forward to hearing your views

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