Human resources previously functioned as merely an administrative department responsible for accepting employment applications, handing out insurance cards and processing payroll. Since the 1980s, HR has evolved into its role as a strategic partner for mapping organizational direction. Although HR remains the go-to department for employees with questions about their health care insurance and payroll deductions, the goal of the HR function is to strengthen the employer-employee relationship. Every discipline of HR contributes to solutions that accomplish this goal.
HR takes on simultaneous complex roles such as mediator, advocate and judge where conflict resolution is concerned. Employers typically publish company policies on resolving workplace issues in their employee handbooks. An HR representative – usually an employee relations specialist familiar with labor and employment law – investigates and resolves employment matters. Resolving workplace conflict is one of the most obvious ways to strengthen the employer-employee relationship.
Employers have an obligation to provide their workers with safe working conditions. Responsibility for workplace safety and risk management generally are within the purview of HR. Safety experts monitor federal and state laws that govern use of dangerous equipment, hazardous materials and preventative measures for safety, such as ergonomics and convenient work stations.
Training and Development
Creating and sustaining a skilled workforce strengthens the relationship between employer and employee. HR often develops the strategy and implements the functional steps of employee training and development programs. The key to strengthening the employer-employee relationship sometimes rests on the type of resources and investment an organization makes on behalf of its employees.
HR supports a work environment where employees are fully engaged workers, enthusiastic about their job duties and responsibilities. Conducting employee opinion surveys is an effective way to measure job satisfaction and morale. HR analyzes employee opinion survey results to develop action plans for the organization’s leaders to improve in areas that affect satisfaction and morale.
One of the most challenging jobs that HR has involves clarifying the duties of HR and its role within an organization. Some employees report unpleasant experiences with their employers’ HR department, giving the department a bad name or equating interaction with the HR department with a visit to the principal’s office. An article titled, “Why We Hate HR,” in the August 2005 issue of “Fast Company” magazine went viral reporting results from a study the Hay Group conducted about the low percentage of employees who saw the value of HR in terms of retention, performance appraisals and training. In the Hay Group’s 2005 study, the percentages of employees satisfied in these areas were 40, 41 and 58 percent, respectively. The main job of the HR function is, therefore, to rebuild the image of HR to craft an employee-friendly support system that represents the interests of both the organization as well as its employees.