If there is a profession more sought after in the world, everyone aspires to join it. People have different views about their chosen professions, which is more a reflection of their own perceptions and experiences encountered while pursuing those professions. Every person who interacts with someone holding a certain position at a workplace forms his opinion on whether he loves or hates the individual.
Dr Shailesh Thaker, a well-renowned management thinker and trainer in organisational behaviour and development, believes that Human Resource is the most lovable profession. He is the Chief Learning Officer of Knowledge Plus Inc, a highly reputed training firm based in Ahmedabad, India. Dr Shailesh had visited Karachi sometime ago, and his audience was surprised to know about his views concerning HR, generally considered to be the most hated department of any organisation. HR professionals themselves feel that people don’t appreciate them for the services they render.
Realistically, HR professionals deal with the most difficult and complicated part of an organisation – human beings. Unlike machines, human behaviour cannot be predicted with certainty. They have emotions, sentiments, different beliefs, ethnic backgrounds and culture. Apart from this, HR professionals have to deal with government officials, ensure compliance with labour laws and interact with law-enforcement agencies. Besides, they also have investors, the management and board of directors to deal with. There is no way to keep all these people happy.
This article discusses some key, and sensitive, functions administered by HR. These functions are: recruitment, compensation, policy-making and implementation, industrial relations including handling of unions, grievance and discipline handling, job-evaluation, succession planning and training and development.
While managing these functions, HR officials encounter several problems, of which most can be solved through ‘proper communication’ and ‘proper listening’. But some HR professionals don’t possess this trait, as they wrongly perceive themselves to be masters of every situation. Consequently, the person trying to convey something to them gets frustrated and disillusioned, and considers the former ill-mannered and uncouth.
Proper communication can solve many problems. In case there is any query, an HR official should give a ‘legally’ supported and ‘logically correct’ solution. If HR professionals are not sincere with employees and provide false and fake information to them, the employees will start hating them.
Understanding human behaviour is another trait that can help address many problems. Although experience gained over the time helps develop this element in an individual, being proactive instead of reactive will greatly facilitate him in getting issues resolved. In general, HR professionals should be considerate of others’ feelings.
Employees hate HR only when they don’t get solutions to their problems. Due to improper communication by HR professionals, employees don’t get the required information, and the former’s response is most often unsatisfactory. In order to communicate properly one should have adequate knowledge of labour laws, business, policies and procedures of the company and the industry. The majority of HR professionals lack proper information and fail to meet the expectations of their ‘customers’ – people with whom HR professionals deal with are to be treated as their ‘customers’.
HR professionals should step into the shoes of their customers whenever the latter seek their help. They should treat them the way they would like to be treated as customers. This is how a relationship of trust will develop between HR professionals and the customers.
Coming back to HR’s functions, policies framed by them should be based on the best market practices and realistic situations. HR is often approached by employees for policy interpretation, especially when they don’t fit into the eligibility criteria of a specific policy. Those approaching HR should be listened to patiently and explained the reasons for not being considered eligible. The reasoning must be based on rationality and limitations of policy, instead of fake justifications. At the end of the discussion, the employee should not feel confused or cheated, but must have received proper answers to all his queries.
Employees approach HR with the expectation of their grievances being resolved. A grievance is the belief that a specific policy, rule or system has not been applied equitably. Most of these grievances are about employees being ignored for job promotions or allegations of mistreatment against their supervisor. Such matters need to be handled by in collaboration with the supervisor’s manager. As a neutral entity, HR can play an effective role in finding out facts and proposing solutions.
Although handling industrial relations is one of HR’s functions, the important responsibility of maintaining peace within an organisation is assigned to people who are temperamentally calm, mature, have knowledge of labour laws and qualitative experience in the field. Mishandling of any situation may have far-reaching consequences for an organisation, leading to disruption in its business and damage to its reputation.
HR is the medium through which the public at large draws its impression about an organisation. Hence, the department should comprise people who possess empathy and professionalism.
The writer is an industrial relationsprofessional.