Google defines Human Resources as “the department of a business or organization that deals with the hiring, administration and training of personnel.” Entrepreneur explains HR as “the department for support systems responsible for personnel sourcing and hiring, applicant tracking, skills development and tracking, benefits administration and compliance with associated government regulations.”
But these definitions focus too heavily, and almost entirely, on administrative duties. Its role is too frequently (and unfortunately) seen as supportive and supplemental within the organization. While these definitions might have been true a few years ago, HR’s role encompasses so much more in today’s workplace.
To get a more current definition, we turned to HighGround’s own Chief of Staff, Jeremy Scott. He explained that, to him, HR “ensures the success and professional growth of employees, the integrity of personal information required by governing agencies and continued success and innovation of the organization. It does this through various strategies – recruiting, employee relations, benefits and perks, advancement opportunities, culture building and more.”
It’s time to start thinking of HR’s role in a new way. To borrow from phrasing used at last week’s Democratic National Convention, HR leaders should see themselves as the changemakers within an organization.
In the same way that every candidate is pushing their “changemaker” status to voters, HR serves as the necessary change agent within an organization. Here’s three ways they do this.
HR creates the processes by which employees are both hired and fired.
A member of the HR team is usually the first person you come into contact with at an organization – for your initial screening call. In this situation, HR has an enormous opportunity to create lasting change for the broader company. Internal recruiters have the critical job of determining which candidates would not only be best for the role, but for the company culture as well. If an organization is trying to shift their culture in any way, for example, recruiters play a big role in helping to do so by bringing in new employees that have those desired traits.
On the other end of the spectrum, the processes developed by HR determine whether or not an employee is fired. HR is responsible for creating a performance management process and selecting the engagement platform that managers and employees will use to communicate. A strong HR stakeholder can influence the adoption of the technology and effectively impact how successfully the process serves to evaluate performance.
HR sets the tone for how an entire organization interacts with each other.
HR serves as the steward for company culture. So while “creating a great company culture” might not be a responsibility listed on a job description, it’s one of the most challenging and imperative parts of HR’s role within an organization. HR has the difficult job of establishing the processes by which employees communicate, recognize and encourage each other. To ensure that these processes are effective, they must truly reflect a company’s mission and values. This makes it imperative that leaders know and understand the pulse of their workforce. Every team, department and location has its own goals and personality. However HR plays the critical, and sometimes difficult, role of unifier. It is now using analytics to better understand pain points and opportunities within an organization. Engagement platforms provide people data and give a more holistic view into performance and sentiment. Leadership is then better equipped to make recommendations to help the company improve culture.
HR gives you a seat at the executive table.
Regardless of age, role, tenure or experience, each and every employee has something to offer the CEO: their perspective. A business decision could be a great idea on paper, but in practice may actually be a huge mistake. By asking for your feedback, both informally and through frequent polls and surveys, HR gives all employees a direct line to the leadership team to voice concerns, surface new ideas or present alternatives. This feedback loop is critical to ensuring any business decisions are positive for the greater good of the organization.
Another feedback mechanism instituted and managed by HR is the exit interview process. Just as important as bringing in the right employees is understanding why they leave. Look to this article for some specific do’s and don’ts of the exit interview process. Conducting these interviews can help organizations collect, consider and act on constructive feedback to prevent future departures. This is yet another opportunity for HR leaders to affect change, yet this time it’s on behalf of those leaving the company.
HR is much more than the administration duties it fulfills. While all of its responsibilities are necessary to the success of a company, perhaps the most important function is to serve as the changemaker. Only HR can reinvent culture, establish fair processes and give everyone a voice. That sounds like a presidential platform, doesn’t it? In the famous words of a recent VP candidate… you betcha.