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Recently I had an interesting conversation with a fella named Ben. We were discussing the advantages of having a Human Resources (HR) person in a company. While I am for it, he was totally against it. Wow – diversity in our beliefs here! And then I talked to a trainer for corporations. Tami’s perspective was also valuable.
So today I will give you a well-rounded look at HR in companies.
Let’s start with why an HR person is valuable to you and to the organization. My conversation with Tami around the role of HR and how she advises employees to tread carefully. The insight she offers them is the reality about the role most HR departments must fit into. Firstly, the department manages all the personnel resources – staffing (hiring, onboarding, releasing), compensation and benefits, related policies and procedures, training, sometimes promotions and career planning.
Secondly, the HR department has a responsibility to protect the legal interest of the organization ensuring it does not run afoul of the law governing Labour Standards and Human Rights, some of which vary between provinces or territories.
Thirdly, she further explains that although ‘employee relations’ falls under this category, the difficulty between coworkers or with personality clashes with management may be out of their capability or capacity. When it comes down to internal complaints, or conflicts, the department often supports management, doing their best to walk that thin line between the employer and the employee. Hence, the origins of unions, specifically designed to protect the interest of the employee. This, however, still does not address interpersonal conflicts, which she has found to create toxic working environments.
For example, George felt he was being unfairly treated because he didn’t get the full bonus he thought he deserved. He worked really hard, met all his targets and had great performance reviews. He just couldn’t understand what was happening – especially since Sally got the full bonus. Yes, things are different today – people share the $$$ they receive. And, in government and even some businesses the salaries are posted so everyone can see.
When he asked his boss about the situation, he was informed that Sally had a family and she needed the money more than he did. True story, names have been changed! George accepted it and carried on, but an internal conflict started between George and Sally, and a small resentment toward his company.
What may have been a better option was to have gone to Human Resources and expressed his concerns because this situation did fall within the legal rights compensation (or whatever labour standard fits). The coworker conflict and reduced performance for the company may never be associated with the original situation.
Not every company has an HR Department… sometimes they are just too small. Even then, many organizations have an external HR Department… an HR department for you to go to whenever you need someone to give you a clear picture of what’s happening.
If George had taken this to HR, HR’s job is to keep the company from being sued in the event of wrongdoing, it may have helped avoid negative consequences. However, there is another scenario that can occur.
Enter the case of Ben. A frontline employee working for a company struggling with rapid growth, Ben had been no stranger to HR mishaps and often being perceived as “just a number.” However, things took a new turn when Ben was asked to act as an interim supervisor for a couple of weeks when a supervisor was on vacation. Weighing a need to drastically alter his schedule against the benefits of this temporary position, Ben ultimately decided to take the leap – the mid-manager offering him the position assured him the pay rate would increase with the responsibilities. A few extra dollars on the side and a few new points on the resume, Ben thought, was a fair deal, so he accepted.
It all took a bad turn on a Friday when Ben was told by the supervisor that there had been “a few changes in the plan.” On the last day before his vacation starts, the supervisor was telling him that Ben “doesn’t need to worry” about the increased responsibilities as Ben would only function as a regular employee on a supervisor’s schedule, effectively cancelling the benefits Ben was promised! With no pay increase and no additional responsibilities, he can showcase on his resume, Ben said the position did not make sense for him anymore.
Having the carpet pulled out from under his feet was the last straw for Ben. Refusing to work further in his department, Ben immediately asked for a transfer. It took him legal advice, union assistance and several tense phone calls with HR to make that happen.
Needless to say, Ben started looking outside the organization for another job. Not a surprise, yet it really shows how organizations can lose good employees when they are not following through on what they promise.
And now, for my perspective.
What can a Human Resource department do for you? There are many things:
- They listen; sometimes you just need someone to talk to – HR needs to be a safe place – your confidences are hopefully kept and there should be nothing you can’t share with your HR representative – just remember, they are there to keep the organization safe from any legal battles
- They know the policies and procedures; in some cases, they wrote them – regardless, they can help you understand the corporate interpretation of the point and help you find the best way to move forward
- Involvement in recruitment and promotions – they know when a new or vacant position is coming up and can guide you in exploring whether you might be a fit
- Salary, raises – they can help to ensure you are receiving the right income; they know the average wage in your area for your position and they can guide you in any negotiation
They know the law so can help you know your rights and how to handle a situation if you feel there are challenges
- Career Transition is something many organizations are familiar with and your HR Department may be able to assist you if you are being downsized out of the organization
And what about George? He did not go to his HR Department and carried on, disappointed in his organization and his manager. He left the organization within a year.
Your workplace needs to be a place of growth, safety and yes, even enjoyment. Understand whether your HR Department can support you and help you achieve all three of these rights.
On the other hand, if this is something that does not relate to the corporation staying on the right side of the law, then you may want to go elsewhere for your support. Rather than family and friends, you may want to seek out a professional as they can provide objective and lawful expertise.
If you have questions that need answers within your work place, please feel free to call Dimension 11 – our mission is to help every individual and every organization be the best they can be.
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