Close your eyes and picture the human resources function at work. It could be a deep department or it might be led by an office manager. Either way, I bet your picture is incomplete.
Key roles of good HR will help you during your career. Plug into them. Ask the right questions. Expect good service. Be patient when things seem too slow.
- Timely Trains
HR makes the trains run on time in most businesses. Incredible complexity, regulation, and risk are behind every paycheck, every 401(k) deduction or match, every group health claim dispute, every payroll deduction form, every voluntary benefit, every stock or bonus plan and every performance review. We take them for granted. Stop and thank HR. It is really impressive that these things work almost all the time. It is equally impressive HR gets anything else done.
- Truth Teller
Effective HR tells employees and leaders the truth. If you want to hear the truth and are ready to act on it, ask HR how you can grow. Ask HR strategies to work with your manager (they already know you have an inexperienced manager and how that feels). Allow HR to help you understand the negative comments on your performance review and how easily most things can improve. Ask HR how you can change career paths at your organization. They have heard it all before and usually have good advice to give.
The CEO and a senior team really need someone with the information, credibility, and neutrality to tell them the cold, hard truth when that truth is needed. Great HR does this well.
The toughest role for HR is finding the right balance between an advocate for management (and its business goals) and the employees. Good HR finds a way to do both. Know that human resource professionals struggle with this balance and usually do see your side of things. Talk to them about this balance, about management’s position on an issue and whether employee needs were considered. Most of the time, you will come away with a clearer view.
- Gatekeeper of Talent
The biggest impact from really good HR is who gets hired and who gets fired. The “who” affects everything that follows. The who makes strategy work (or fail). The who makes it a nice place to work (or awful). The who supports company values and engagement (or destroys them)
- Guardian of the Culture
HR has to make all this happen in a way that improves company culture: how people behave when no one is looking. If the trains run on time, truth telling is valued, employee needs are balanced with business goals, we hire (and keep) the right people, then a good culture will usually follow.
At CAI we build engaged, well-managed, low-risk workplaces. If your company could use an HR partner, please contact us at 919-878-9222 or learn more at CAI.
Bruce Clarke serves as CAI’s President and CEO, and has been with CAI since 2001. Bruce practiced labor and employment law with the national labor law firm of Ogletree Deakins for 18 years. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of North Carolina’s Legal Elite by Business North Carolina Magazine. Bruce is 100% committed to helping companies maximize employee engagement and minimize workplace liabilities.