But as discussion heats up about the return to the office and the future of the workplace, speculations around the role of HR seem to be gathering even more steam – including in the media.
Whether it’s scepticism over whether HR can be trusted, or simply that HR is another unnecessary expense – HR has come under a lot of criticism.
The past year has taught us so much about the impact and strategic value of the HR function. Yet, despite so much progress, popular opinion is still steeped in myth and misconceptions which risk degrading well-earned trust between HR and the rest of the business.
Here I look at some of the biggest myths that I have encountered throughout my career and explore how HR professionals can bust these myths in their workplace once and for all.
“Never trust HR – they only work to serve the business, not you”
HR is often criticised for only acting in the interests of the company – not its employees. However, it’s important we ask the question, are there even sides to take? Businesses would be nowhere without their people – their greatest asset.
Instead of viewing the HR function as the mediator between the two ‘sides’ of ‘us’ and ‘them’ we need to rewrite the narrative and see HR as an important facilitator in making constructive decisions that push all parties towards a unified set of goals.
Where HR teams do feel siloed and unable to fulfil this role, the focus should be finding ways to work more closely with business leaders and departments to ensure that the people strategy is aligned with business goals. In this way, every part of the organisation can work together towards a common goal.
“HR is all talk and no trousers”
Sadly, some employees think that the HR profession falls short of making a real impact, with people believing that whilst HR are there to listen to employees they don’t have the clout to do anything about it.
While this may be a real challenge in some organisations where the HR function doesn’t have a seat at the table, it’s important not to lose sight of the crucial role HR can play in listening to, understanding and empowering its people.
The hot debate over the return to the office is just one example of where HR can support employees, ensuring that their concerns and priorities are communicated to their leaders.
Here, it’s important for HR teams to make themselves as present and visible to employees as possible, and to continue to communicate regularly with them throughout their career, not just during on- and off-boarding.
“HR is only good for admin”
Many people – or even businesses – misconstrue HR as a team whose job centres on administrative duties. Whilst it’s true that this is one element of the function, it’s important for businesses to understand that you get the HR that you ask for. If we only view the function HR as an admin function then that’s the HR we’ll get.
But, now, more than ever, we know the key role HR can play as a strategic partner to businesses if given the tools, skills and time to do so. In order to take advantage of this, we need to think about what we want from the HR function and recruit and invest accordingly.
If we want data and analytics on our people, then we need to recruit the right talent or develop the necessary skills in those within our teams. If we want to deliver the best people strategy, we need HR to not only work closely with business leaders, but also have the tools and technology to free up our time.
In short, businesses and HR need to align to ensure HR has the time and resource it requires to be a strategic partner.
It’s clear that HR is what a business makes of it. And those that are able to harness the full potential of HR to their advantage will ultimately be best placed to tackle the HR myths to empower the HR function in their business – and beyond.
Ross Seychell is chief people officer at Personio
Has the pandemic created an opportunity for HR to rebrand itself? Read more in our March/April cover story: