Where is the “Human” in Human Resources?
Tina Hamilton, founder & CEO of hireVision (an HR and hiring management firm) and a colleague of mine, asked the question, “Does the ‘human’ in Human Resources still exist?”
She’s worried about “the emotional element of HR. The empathetic approach to dealing with employees as living people versus machines that we control and maneuver to produce our goods and services.” Her concern is based on what she sees as “an epidemic of HR professionals being desensitized.”
Tina attributes part of this epidemic to the required attention to regulatory compliance and monitoring of a growing assortment of labor laws. Part of it also comes from years of HR downsizing and/or outsourcing with technology filling in the gaps. (Have an HR issue? Call the HR Hotline: press 1 for payroll … press 2 for employee benefits … press 3 for employee relations … )
It’s good that someone in HR is asking about the “human” element in human resources. I also think this question needs to be addressed at the executive level. After all, it’s the leadership of an organization that is ultimately responsible for its human resources, not just the HR staff.
If top management really cares about its employees, it will enable the HR staff and all managers to treat the company’s employees as humanly as possible – with dignity and respect for them as real people with real concerns, not unfeeling minions.
It’s been my experience that when the “human” aspect of “human resources” is missing, it’s often because the HR department (or any department for that matter) has become more focused on its own mission/purpose/existence, as opposed to maintaining the perspective that the department exists solely in order to support the overall organization in achieving a collective goal or mission. In larger organizations, HR, as well as other departments, become territorial empires (led by execs with egos) that worry more about maintaining control, maintaining their rules, etc. instead of ensuring that they are working in the best interest of the organization. I do think communicators can help in this regard, but it also needs to be established from the CEO-level that no one part of the organization is greater than the whole.
I’m not sure who should play the role of employee advocate, but internal communicators can definitely have an impact by getting management to consider and respond to the employee perspective (i.e., addressing their issues, concerns, questions). I don’t know if management cares about balancing the message among key audiences; at a minimum, however, they should focus on honesty and transparency if the organization wants to maintain credibility and trust.
Thanks for starting this discussion, Kathy.
I would love to get a discussion going on this. Most of my work is internal communications, and lately I am interacting much with HR. I am definitely seeing a we/they attitude, and HR people totally on the side of ‘protecting’ the company as hard times force some difficult actions. A big part of my personal ethics and motivation is to be a bridge between management and employees and to foster employee communications and interactions that have integrity and respect. I am starting to feel more on the ‘we’ side, not by choice, and it makes me uncomfortable. How can we as communicators help lead in this area?