When I first started working in Human Resources, we were very much an administrative office. Applications, benefit forms, open enrollment infused with a little bit of fun such as health and benefit fairs and annual holiday parties. Once I entered my masters program the idea of “strategic HR” or “HR having a seat at the table” was a common thread through a lot of my higher education. When I finally got into the working world, I realized that it’s actually really hard for HR to NOT be an administrative department and to focus on the strategic component. What I realized more and more is that HR is often thought of and treated as the department that “fights fires” or “fixes” everyone else problems. But how can we stop being so short sighted in how we practice HR and focus on being more strategic and moving the needle forward? Here’s how…
Respond, Quit Reacting
Employees often come to HR or leadership with issues that are framed with a sense of urgency. This always causes leadership to react and “fix” a situation without actually thinking it through. When we train employees that they will get an immediate answer or a response to a text on the weekend, it builds and expectation and it’s not always appropriate. If your company stresses “work-life” balance, responding to work related text messages on the weekend is a true act of misalignment. If your company focuses on honesty and integrity but yet you react to every “rumor” about an employee's performance, you my friend are also misaligned.
Practice responding rather than reacting. Advise employees you’re going to look into it, taking the time to do appropriate research and then craft a response. There are very few things in employment that require urgent responses.
Stay In Your Lane
I am a server, I enjoy and thrive in situations where I have to take care of people. This can sometimes leave me doing things that really aren’t my job or responsibilities. I call that “Not Staying in My Lane.”
For HR professionals we need to stop getting involved and solving things that are not our jobs. Obviously an HR department's role is to provide support and guidance particularly on leadership issues but that doesn’t mean we need to fix it every day. Which brings us to the third point...
Act as a True Partner
HR can only have a seat at the table when they work as a true partner. Sometimes HR can be a roadblock and there may be times they need to be but most often they should be focusing on how they can support a function.
Take interviewing for example. HR can tell you all the things that you said wrong during the interview and that you should have done A, B or C when interviewing the candidate. That’s HR putting up a barrier. Instead, HR should work collaboratively with a hiring manager, providing education and guidance on what they can ask or working on an interviewing schedule that provides adequate time for the interview. It’s much easier to work collaboratively then trying to divide.