The delicate balance of HR: Employees

This is part 2 of a three-part series about human resources.
Part 1 :
Leadership | Part 3: Inside

From an employee perspective, HR can be anything from the team who coordinates the holiday party to the person who is telling us our benefits will cost more and we will not get a raise.

In this series, we will look at the department from different perspectives to illustrate the delicate balance required to grow and maintain a functional department that contributes positively to the organization and its culture. In the first article, we examined HR from the leadership perspective. In this article, we will look at the employee perspective.

With or against

As employees, we can follow a few simple steps to get what we need from HR. The first step is to figure out the department. Is it one person who just grew into the position? Is it a director, a recruiter and a receptionist? Do they always seem overworked, behind schedule or bogged down with payroll?

The department may be tasked with too many things, in which case no matter how nice they are or how much they want to help, they may not have the time, resources or bandwidth. Their support may be nonexistent or inconsistent. If that is the case, our second step will be to figure out how to align what we want with what they can give us.

For example, if we want a raise and we feel like HR is a roadblock, we need to change our approach. Find out from HR what needs to happen for them to process a raise. Does it require a performance review and a form signed off from a VP? Whatever it is, once we get that information we can figure out what steps we may be able to take to facilitate the process.

The key is to work in line with HR but relieve some of their administrative burden. Yes, it may feel like we are doing their job, but if they cannot and we do not, then who will? Once we recognize their resources may be limited, we can better prepare to address the gaps.

Delicate balance

In other cases, the HR department may be fully in control of the processes, resources and information we need, yet not supporting us in our goals. In those situations, it may be helpful to understand a little more about HR.

Specifically, it is often the case that HR knows a lot more than the average employee about what is happening in the organization, like pending layoffs, disciplinary investigations, staff salaries and more. Their success depends upon keeping this information confidential.

For many people, this can create a lot of additional stress that may challenge their interpersonal communication skills. If we can find a way to understand and work with those challenges, we will likely get a lot more support for our own projects.

Bottom line

Understanding the limits of the HR department is the key to getting the most out of it.

If HR is one or two employees stretched to the max covering every aspect of the function, then regardless of how much they might want to helping build a winning culture, they are fighting an uphill battle. In such cases, the most fruitful way to work with the department will require a little initiative.

On the contrary, if HR holds the keys to the kingdom and just does not want to open the door, we must find a way to address the gaps in their seemingly challenged communication skills with enhanced efforts of our own.

In either case, we need to recognize the limits of the team and align our efforts with the work they do to advance our own goals.