If we’re honest, it’s no secret that Human Resources (HR) is far from being the most beloved department in most organizations. HR is like the principal’s office – if employees are asked to go to HR, they feel like they’re in trouble. I like to compare it to when I’m driving and a police car turns on its sirens behind me. My stomach always flips and I assume the worst, that I’m being pulled over for speeding, even though I know my cruise control was set at two mph below the limit.
The good news is that the functions of HR have expanded in recent years and thus, HR is no longer just known for personnel functions, paperwork and employee relations (“the principal’s office”). However, HR still has some reputation building to do. Just like a company has to brand and sell itself to its customers, HR needs to brand and sell itself to its employees.
Let’s explore some areas in HR and how to improve them in order to gain the trust and respect of our customer base, the employees.
This is HUGE! The best way to know how people feel is to ask. Plus, all the lists for becoming a great/best workplace requires an employee survey in order to participate. So, HR has been doing a great job at surveying employees. However, we need to work on what we do with the results of the survey. We need to take employee feedback and make changes to the HR department, to employee programs, to organizational initiatives, to leadership development, etc. Then, COMMUNICATE the changes made to everyone so that they know you heard them.
I’ve worked with many HR departments, a couple that were phenomenal at customer service but most that were awful at it. I’ve had several employees compare HR to the DMV – they see HR as a department that exists only because it has to, not a department that really cares about people or the mission of the organization. To change this, we need to change our mindset.
We, as HR professionals, need to stop thinking of our employees just as employees but also as customers. Customers have choices. If they are dissatisfied with the services provided by HR, the culture of the organization or anything else that affects their time at work, they will take their talents to another organization. This means that HR departments are letting some of their best employees go because of a lack of customer service – a lack of understanding our people and what they value.
So, how do we invent or reinvent good employee service in HR? When an employee calls or visits HR, greet them with a smile and do whatever it takes to make sure they get what they need before they leave. Follow up with employees when appropriate to check on them and see if there is anything else HR can do for them.
I interviewed a candidate once for an HR department and I asked her what customer service meant to her and she gave me the best answer I’ve ever heard – “Customer service in HR means making the employee you are serving at the moment feel like he/she is the most important person in the whole world.” Needless to say, she got the job. It’s about dropping and forgetting everything else you were doing and focusing all of your attention on the customer’s needs.
Most HR departments lack innovation. If we don’t want to be treated like the “personnel” department anymore, we need to stop acting like it. We need to do more than just hire/fire people, provide a healthcare benefits package and deal with legal employment issues. We need to start finding creative and innovative ways to engage our employees in every way possible.
We need to not just acquire the best talent but we need to find ways to keep them, grow and develop them, involve them in big decisions and sell them on the organization. My motto is: “Attain, Retain, Sustain!” It’s easier said than done but HR will be successful if it makes every single decision with its employees at the forefront.
Develop an HR strategy by asking questions like “What can we do to keep our best employees?” or “What are our employees unsatisfied with and how can we fix it?” or “What would our employees think if we did this?” It may take a lot more creativity than HR departments are used to but it’s absolutely necessary.
I could go on and on about more specific ways for HR to engage employees but essentially, it’s about developing and carrying out a Marketing strategy in the HR department. How are we attracting your target employee population? What are we doing to make sure they don’t leave and go to our competitor? Do we know what the competitors are doing? Are we paying higher than the competitor? Are we trending employee feedback and making adjustments? Are we doing everything we can to get buy-in from senior leadership? Are we present and visible? Are we keeping up with technology? Are we doing something different and better for our employees than other organizations?
All of these questions and probably others will help HR gain the respect and trust of employees. If employees know that HR truly cares about them and that they are recognized as part of every decision/change, they will be more likely to buy into the organization and its mission and values.