In the classic comic strip Dilbert, the director of human resources is an evil cat who takes joy in other people’s suffering. That’s great for comic strip punchlines, but not great for HR directors in real life. Unfortunately, a stigma continues to hang over human resource departments: HR is the office tattletale who cares only about compliance and rules. Today, this description couldn’t be further from the truth.
HR may still be a business’s eyes and ears, but the goal isn’t to call people out for arbitrary rule infractions. Instead, by understanding employee behaviors and needs, you can help company leadership address critical business issues like recruitment and retention, employee engagement and leadership development. Your mission is to get the best out of every employee.
Helping others get on board with HR’s new role, however, isn’t easy – and you may find your own company leadership questioning how you can add value. Don’t give up. Shifting the perception of HR from a rule enforcer to a business partner must start with you.
Be prepared for an expanded role.
Do your homework: your role as a “human capital consultant” will be different from traditional HR functions, and to prove to leadership that you’re up for the challenge, you’ll need credibility. Study all aspects of your company’s business. Request to sit in on meetings with customers. Join the sales team for their weekly huddle session. You’ll gain a front-row view of how each department operates and see how employees interact. What motivates employees? What excites them about their job? Where are they running into institutional barriers that hinder success? The answers to these questions will inform strategies for tackling challenges like high turnover rates or stagnant employee engagement.
Prove your value.
Some company leaders may welcome your new focus on human capital but others may be wary of this new role. You’ll need to build credibility one step at a time. Propose a trial period to test a new program and continually look for opportunities to show how your deep understanding of human resources can drive business success.
Recently, I spoke with an HR employee who was trying to enact a better performance review process. The company’s leadership insisted on keeping the performance review conversation confined to the meeting room. Nothing was written down, and employees were frustrated that they couldn’t benchmark performance or point to improvements over time.
This HR employee knew that the process not only hurt employee engagement but also exposed the company to unnecessary legal risks. From a compliance standpoint, should employees request feedback from management sessions, the company leaders were legally required to give that to them. The HR employee used her knowledge of employment laws to get a foot in the door with senior leadership – warning of them of the legal risks to their current approach and presenting a solution she knew would assuage employee concerns.
How have you expanded your HR role to benefit your company? I invite you to share your successes in the comments below.