HR: loyalties, priorities and fallacies
Eliza Brecheisen explores the responsibilites of HR and whether it is ever truly on the side of employees.
We’ve all had a teacher or a boss we hate. Someone who we want to blame for the strict rules the school has placed on us. Someone to take out all our frustration on.
In the BBC’s recent article “Is HR ever really your friend?” Joanna York opens her article by saying that, for employees, it is a common belief that HR functions purely to represent, help, and cradle the employee. This is the root of the problem: the expectation of what a HR department should be versus the reality of what it is. The article includes a quote from Doctor Gena Cox saying, “There is no role in HR departments, as it is currently, that is 100% for the employee”.
Too often employees mistake the HR department for their manager. They expect the HR department to be focused on their wellbeing and to work on engaging them. While this should be one concern of the HR department, it is the job of the manager to lead the movement to engage workers and solve at least some internal conflicts.
The problem isn’t that HR aren’t doing enough, it’s that they don’t have the power to change the entire ethics of the company
HR is really split into two sections: the people and the logistics. One half is looking after the people, making sure they stay engaged and happy, and taking care of conflicts. This can lead to wide-scale policy change and even legislative change, such as Portugal making it illegal for bosses to message their employees outside of work hours. The opportunity for HR to make an impact is there, but it is limited by the other half of their job. They handle payrolls, benefits, and number crunching among other things that in truth should not be their responsibility in the first place if they are to improve engagement and wellbeing in business plans.
Blind completed a survey showing that 70 per cent of people do not trust their HR department. This coincides with Gallup’s findings that only 15 per cent of the world’s employees and 33 per cent of the US’s employees are ‘engaged’ in their workplace. These numbers include employees from HR departments. They are just as disengaged as the other sectors and also must rely on their managers to perform well.
while it is frustrating when HR does not fit what we want […] this is merely a reflection of the corrupt, overly economic mindset that dominates CEOs and company boards
HR reports to the CEO, not to the employee. The HR department is not for the employee. This means that if you have a CEO focused on crunching numbers rather than fostering a good working environment, that is what the HR department will be working on. The problem isn’t that HR aren’t doing enough, it’s that they don’t have the power to change the entire ethics of the company.
Gallup managing director and leader of the CHRO Roundtable Jeremie Brecheisen has explored how a CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer) is the least likely to be chosen as a CEO, with companies valuing financial experience over people-based experience. HR departments have all the potential to be leaders and create the culture people expect of them, but not the training or opportunity. Brecheisen believes we should “give CHROs business experience and give business leaders CHRO experience. Leading people should not be a reward; it should be a responsibility that requires talent and training. And that training must include expertise in the most important part of any organization — its people”. So, while it is frustrating when HR does not fit what we want as employees or future employees, this is merely a reflection of the corrupt, overly economic mindset that dominates CEOs and company boards.
While we should certainly push for better workplace environments, let’s not frame our friends in HR as the perpetrators. After all, they’re human too.