Effective human resources leaders balance dual advocacy for the organization and for its employees; however, many employees believe that HR favors management because it’s a member of the leadership team. It’s unfortunate, but in many cases, HR does favor management because the HR leader may feel beholden to prioritize management’s interests instead of the interests of the company’s employees. Therein lies the struggle that many employees have in understanding the purpose of their employer’s HR presence. Understanding HR’s role may help clarify that HR has a duty to both employees and management in every area of the business.
Generally speaking, HR is responsible for ensuring the company complies with federal, state and local regulations that govern the working relationship. Employers must adhere to laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Noncompliance can result in loss of business, steep fines and penalties, lawsuits and hefty judgments and damage to the company’s reputation because of bad publicity. Ensuring compliance can require making some tough decisions, which may be viewed negatively by applicants, individual employees or an entire work force.
When an employee is hired, she learns what it takes to meet or exceed the employer’s expectations. Regular feedback from supervisors and annual performance appraisals measure whether the employee’s performance is up to par. When it isn’t, HR is usually the one that presents options such as performance improvement plans, or PIPs. But sometimes, even PIPs aren’t as effective as the company would like and the only option is to relieve the employee of her responsibilities. Whether the employee is relieved of her job duties, terminated or reassigned to a different role, it seems that HR sides with management instead of the employee. The reality is that employees are hired based on their aptitude, qualifications and ability to further the organization’s goals. When those goals don’t come to fruition, letting an employee go for poor performance is perceived as one point for the employer and zero for the employee.
Workplace structure is an essential component for business operations. Workplace policies, processes and procedures ensure that the company is building quality products or providing services in the manner that its customers expect. If HR doesn’t collaborate with management on developing policies that enable the company to operate like a well-oiled machine, chaos will eventually result in business closure, which is as much a loss for employees as it is for management. In this case, the policies that HR implements favor both management and staff; without them, employment opportunities would cease to exist, leaving employees out of work.
Strategic development, budget constraints and employee performance are elements of a well-constructed pay plan. Paying competitive wages and providing attractive benefits are the goals of a compensation plan; however, employees who focus exclusively on how well they’re paid might sense that the company is purposely restricting pay raises or not offering the most generous benefit packages because the company doesn’t value employee contributions. Where compensation is concerned, research, comparison and job analyses are all a part of developing salary and wage structure. Without a well-constructed compensation plan, many businesses would suffer financially, which can lead to business closure.
From its beginnings as personnel administration, HR was primarily responsible for administrative functions, such as disbursing paychecks and providing paperwork that employees needed to enroll in health-care plans. Although HR is continually evolving, employees still imagine HR as the equivalent of a principal’s office in a setting where managers are overseers and employees are children subject to disciplinary action for any number of infractions. HR has an obligation to dispel this image through regularly interacting with employees, conducting walk-throughs in every department and assuring employees that HR is an advocate for management and employees, because without the combination of employee skills and management direction, the employer’s goal for success is unattainable.