For many companies, the human resources department gets a bad rap. Typically, they only become involved when something has gone wrong – an employee is failing to meet expectations, somebody has done something they shouldn’t have, there’s a hole in the organization that needs to be filled as quickly as possible, and so on.
When human resources are doing their job properly, most people will not even know they are there. Highly proficient HR professionals work quietly in the background keeping all the gears of the business running smoothly with minimal interruptions.
But most human resources do much more than simply interview prospective employees and oversee employee discipline. While they may not always broadcast all the good things they do to improve your organization, HR professionals make a critical contribution to any company’s success.
Nurturing a Positive Corporate Culture
A company’s top management may define what the business looks like, but it’s usually up to HR to transform that vision into a reality by nurturing a corporate culture among every level of its employees.
While some of this has to do with developing and enforcing standards – dress codes, employee behavior, time and attendance policies, and so on – developing a corporate identity goes further than that. HR also is charged with building a sense of community within the organization. It organizes special events such as employee appreciation functions. It looks for ways to reward and recognize good work that go beyond just a paycheck.
One of the most important jobs of a HR professional is to communicate the same information throughout the organization consistently and efficiently. That’s not always easy to do, especially when you have to answer the same question about changes in the benefits package or a modification to the employee handbook several dozen times per day.
HR professionals have to be good communicators as well as effective administrators. What companies say to their team internally is often just as important – if not more important – than the image they present to the outside world.
Human resources are often the only team within the organization that consistently puts the betterment of the entire company above their own benefit.
Department heads are notoriously territorial. They can be ferocious when it comes to protecting their turf. And they often put the interests of their team members ahead of those of the company as a whole.
HR can’t afford to do that because they need to always weigh the organization’s larger goals whenever making a decision on behalf of the company.
Wearing Multiple Hats
What other department plays more roles than human resources? They have to be the hirers and firers. They have to educate the organization on the rules and enforce them consistently and fairly every day. They have to listen objectively to workers’ complaints or offer counseling and direction when needed.
In some instances, HR professionals need to provide life coaching and professional mediation. They have to implement the vision of executive management while selling these ideas to mid-level managers and line-level employees.
They may have to deal with outside labor agitators while keeping their current work force happy and productive. They are the front line negotiators in collective bargaining agreements.
In essence, the HR department has to be everything to everybody within the organization in order to keep the business flowing as smoothing and profitably as possible.
Holding the Line
The HR team needs to be fair and objective when dealing with issues that could cause harm to the company or its employees. They need to develop standards, enforce them, and discipline those who violate them or fail to live up to expectations.
That frequently makes the HR professional one of the least popular employees within any organization. They are often viewed with suspicion and caution. Lunch room conversations often go silent when the HR person sits down at the table.
But in order to do their job effectively, the HR professional has to treat everybody with the same balance of respect and expectation. And while that may not always win them any popularity contests, it is in the best interest of the organization.
Vetting Benefit Providers
The HR team is responsible for providing the best possible employee benefits at the lowest possible costs to the company. Sometimes this requires saying “no” to what employees want or negotiating aggressively with benefit vendors in order to get the best deal for everybody.
HR professionals have to be tough but fair in order to get what’s best for both the organization as a whole and its individual team members.
When it comes time to organizing company’s charitable programs or planning fund raisers, guess who usually gets the call? It’s the HR team that has to get employees to support charity drives such as the United Way or the Red Cross, as well as organizing collections and coordinating with the charity.
The HR department in any organization plays one of the most important roles and frequently gets the least amount of credit.