“Why We Hate HR” is the cover story of this month’s Fast Company, and it’s brutal. To all those in HR, I feel your pain.
In all honesty, some of the criticisms sound familiar: not having a strategic seat at the table, having your budget be among the first to get cut, and at-risk for being outsourced because you can’t easily demonstrate your function’s value or ROI, etc. I’ve heard this before at numerous conferences for professionals in market research and marketing. So I empathize.
Why Marketing Had to Step In
At the same time, I have to admit that one of the reasons I became involved with internal marketing was because of HR’s lack of effectiveness. I learned to apply marketing to proactively communicate with, educate, and motivate employees to take care of customers (in more of a management strategy than a pure marketing function).
“What about HR?” people would ask me. “Aren’t you superseding your authority by getting involved with employees?”
In my experience in banking (earlier in my career), as mergers proliferated I saw HR downsized (along with the rest of us in “staff” functions) to become a hiring/firing, payroll/benefits shop. In the process many employees were alienated, yet still expected to provide high levels of customer satisfaction.
I saw this trend in the erosion of HR’s employee-relations function happen in other industries. So I continued to advocate for internal marketing with its focus on the value of employees and the customers they serve.
Employees as “Assets” … Reality or Lip-Service?
To be fair, the situation isn’t always HR’s fault. It all comes down to leadership and the culture it creates. Where leadership is lacking, those responsible for internal marketing need to involve HR, Operations, Administration, IT, and other internal allies.
Employee relations, like customer service, shouldn’t be limited to one department or function … It’s every manager’s responsibility.