Where was HR when….?

Where was HR when frontline employees at the Veterans Administration Hospitals were obeying the order to log the date of request to be seen one day before their appointment, to show positive metrics?

Where was HR when Wells Fargo employees entered phony accounts for customers who did not open them, all to achieve productivity requirements?

Where was HR while all of these powerful men intimidated (or worse) the female employees?

Well, let’s start here:
• They were writing job descriptions that no one uses because a regulatory agency said they must.
• They were trying to maintain the integrity of the pay system by arguing with operational leaders about pay ranges and grades.
• They were running around the building trying to get operational leaders to complete performance evaluations.
• They were knee-deep for three months in negotiating benefit costs and trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear about the increase.
• They were filling jobs (almost) as fast as operational leaders were driving incumbents out the door.
• They were investigating an employee relations incident and trying to convince operational leaders that their best-producing sales person was a sleaze.
• They were putting employees through hours and hours of regulatory training because a regulatory body said they must.
• They were collecting company property for employees exiting the organization.
• They were trying to figure out and explain why headcount was different in the budget system than in the HR system.
• They are trying to understand the changing rules and regulations that are more like a political football so that they can keep their organization out of trouble.

Do you get where I am going? I am the first one to say that HR is not doing what HR needs to do to drive the “people part of the business.” But let’s be fair. The demands on HR are overwhelming, and the resources they have are meager.

Most HR folks want to make a difference. They want to be the beacon of ethics prescribed by the Society for Human Resources Management. They know that they spend their time putting out fires; they want to prevent them.

What’s getting in their way?

TLNT’s John Zappe wrote a great article that got me thinking about this. The mainstream media is hanging HR out to dry, and one could conclude that HR is too afraid or too concerned about their jobs to “raise the red flag.”

That might be so. It also could be because HR is treading water and about to drown because they are carrying responsibilities that should NEVER have become theirs.

It could also be because we are on the brink of a shift in cultural awareness regarding gender issues in the workplace, much as we were with “black lives matter.” The voices are growing in volume exponentially, and they are difficult to continue to ignore.

There is never one easy answer when a question like “Where was HR…” is raised. Desire and intent alone are not enough. What has happened is a systemic issue that needs to be examined and addressed by multiple approaches. We could start here.

Wake up, operational leaders

Hopefully, you’ve all been reading the news lately. Remember those HR folks that tried to tell you about something inappropriate that happened? Maybe now you’ll listen.

Recognize the demands put on HR

Regulatory requirements are more profound for some industries than others, but HR cannot escape the risk associated with regulatory requirements. That huge increase in benefit costs? The many hours of required training? That’s not HR mandating; that’s a regulatory agency trying to legislate what operational leaders should already be doing, but aren’t.

Work together to create useful tools

And by the way, it is time for you to step up and join HR to create a workplace that engages a committed workforce. Leadership isn’t only HR’s job; it’s leaders’. HR can provide tools (e.g., performance management processes) but if those tools aren’t working, help HR figure out how to do it better.

Get out and about

The visibility of operational leaders and HR in the workplace isn’t about checking the box that they were visible. It’s about listening to those employees who are at the source of the work performed. It’s about asking deeper questions about how they do their jobs, how they are led, and what resources they need.

And then it’s about responding.

We’ve created our own chaos

Think about HR roles: training, hiring, employee relations, benefits, compensation. Think about how much of what HR does and why they do it is directly related to a regulatory requirement that was legislated to protect the workforce.

Why? It’s because we weren’t doing a good job without being regulated.

We can change that. We can look at what we want to be – to our customers AND our employees – and work together to achieve that. That means we have to have a candid dialogue about what’s working and what’s not. And that has to be a partnership.

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