Making HR Better?

The topic was raised: How would you make HR better? That’s a tough question. A big question. I don’t know that entire answer, but I know where I’d start. I’d make HR better by…

  • … shifting our focus from being about “doing HR” to helping people (and therefore the company) perform at their best.
  • … creating a great employee experience. How a company thinks about and treats its employees directly impacts how employees think about and treat customers which impacts how customers think about and treat the company which impacts business performance and sustainability.
  • … celebrating the impact HR has on people and the business. HR is not always an easy place to be. We tend to deal with people at their best and worst moments without a whole lot in between. BUT that’s what makes HR such an important, exciting, and fulfilling field to be in.
  • … remembering we have customers and figuring out how to provide Zappos levels of customer service while making HR processes Amazon 1-click simple.
  • … creating/supporting/reinforcing a great work environment. Call it culture, climate, whatever. Some places have an energy about them that is life affirming and some have an energy that’s soul sucking. The #1 place to start is within the HR department.
  • … remembering that what is a routine task or transaction for HR is probably a huge event for employees and managers. So easy to forget, and so important to remember. Paychecks are not just numbers, they are food, shelter, security, and dreams. Insurance becomes most important at the worst moments of life. Leading others means making decisions and taking actions that affect lives – that’s a huge responsibility and it’s almost impossible to know what the “right” decision is in advance.
  • … job shadowing every other department. It’s one thing to “know” what work is being done, quite another thing to see it in action. To understand the challenges, problems, and joys; the processes, polices, and rules; the pressures, demands, and stresses. And the better we understands those things, the better we can do our jobs in HR.
  • … getting out of the office more to connect with employees and managers informally and without an HR reason. It creates an opportunity to learn about needs, answer questions before they become problems, build important relationships, and make talking to HR seem normal rather than scary.
  • … not waiting for permission. I’m pretty sure every other department is expected to get on with their jobs and solve problems without being told what problems to solve. Yet, so often HR hesitates and waits to be told what to do. How would things be different – what could we accomplish – if we spent more time moving forward and less time worrying about whether or not we should? Identify problems and opportunities, gather information, make good decisions, get approval only if and when needed. Move forward.

These stand out for me because I’ve had some great bosses and mentors who have done each of these and I’ve experienced what it’s like when HR is done really well. And, at some point in my career, I’ve failed at all of them. Each and every one. I’ve retreated, operated in isolation, treated my customers like an interruption, let great ideas die at the first sign of resistance, not bothered to understand processes from my customers’ perspective, gotten down on HR, forgotten the bigger picture of people and performance, let my mood dictate the team climate, etc. All. Of. The. Above.

In short, I’d make HR better by continuing to make me better at HR.

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