HR Gets a Bad Rep– Here’s How to Fix It

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If business were a fairytale, HR would be the wicked stepmother. At times they appear to be unfair, or even mean. However, the way I see it, it’s this reputation that is is unfair–  not only is HR often put between a rock and hard place, but also the function (as many see it) is simply outdated. Let’s talk about redefining and elevating HR, so that teams can put down their pitchforks and appreciate the function for what it can be.

The path to becoming Toby from The Office

Prior to the massive adoption of tech, HR had a ton of administrative tasks and processes that were completed manually– hindering the function’s strategic development throughout the evolution of the workplace. It wasn’t until recently that the HR department received the technological attention that other departments have been working with for the past decade. This has left HR in a role akin to the youngest sibling– eager to grow up, but unsure of where their place is in the wave of talent. Luckily, given the recent wave in HR technology investments and innovations, the HR function is poised to catch up.

In addition, HR is often the position of making challenging decisions that directly impact employees, giving them the reputation of being staunch supporters of rules and regulations and ruining everyone’s fun (think Toby from The Office). It’s not that HR wants to be the “bad guy” or the spoilsport; unfortunately, that’s the part of their job that employees most often witness, even though their role encompasses so much more. Also, others in the organization tend to use HR as a scapegoat (don’t pretend you haven’t done that…), thereby eroding the credibility of their HR department.

Redefining and elevating the function

Around a year ago, the cover of Harvard Business Review carried the statement: “It’s time to blow up HR and build something new. Here’s How.”

The edition was not saying that HR was bad and should be removed from organizations. Instead, it was saying that the current structure of the HR function is holding it back from being the effective people organizer, talent optimizer, and change maker that it needs to be. The solution? Redefine and elevate HR.

Make room for innovation

Many important administrative tasks (payroll processing, onboarding, etc.) fall under the HR department, which makes it hard to dedicate time for long-term strategic responsibilities, like optimizing people dynamics or re-thinking outdated processes. Leverage technology to streamline the administrative tasks, and empower HR to work with people in a strategic capacity. This makes room for innovation, for learning from leaders and employees, and for leveraging this unique perspective to bring the two groups together.

Incorporate business principles

When HR first began, it was designed as a checks-and-balances-type function. The workforce is now leaning towards a collaborative style, and so should the HR function. Encourage HR to partner with other departments to stay up to date on business practices that they can apply in their roles. For example, have your marketing team partner with your HR department to show them the ropes of attracting people.

Further, fluency in data and analytics is becoming more important for the HR function– to understand employee trends, to better communicate with other departments, and to make the business case for human capital decisions. Provide a crash course in data analytics so that HR is poised to make data-driven decisions that benefit your people and your business.

Putting the “human” back in HR

It’s a little ironic that a department labeled “Human Resources” can feel like the least human part of the organization. That’s because leaders have allowed HR to be cast out into the cold. Just as culture is a business topic, so is HR. Team up with your HR department to figure out how to best get them into the new workforce structure. By redefining HR and leveraging their unique skill-set, you’re making way for more effective people operations.

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