10 ways to transform the reputation of HR

Fewer excuses and more solutions, collaboration with other departments and intelligent use of data will all help HR become truly strategic in 2016

HR departments can feel rather split in two; finding a balance to support both the company and its people adequately can be tricky at times.

But there are things HR can do in 2016 to be seen as a strategic function that brings real value to the business, rather than a department mainly in charge of corporate admin. These 10 activities will help you deliver results that change the perception of HR in your organisation:

1. Make sure everyone knows what you do and the results you deliver. As obvious as this sounds, most people don’t know exactly what HR does or what it accomplishes, and they can’t appreciate something they don’t know much about.

2. Improve the quality and regularity of communication with people. Employees should not only be hearing from HR when they’ve done something wrong or when they receive the annual survey via email. HR should be building relationships with internal stakeholders at all levels of the business and gathering feedback all year round formally and informally. Communication is a two-way process that can often resolve issues before they occur. Effective communication can transform the perception of the HR function.

3. Stop coming up with excuses and find solutions. Being understaffed or not having enough hours in the day are not acceptable excuses, because every department could make them. Become better at prioritising, organising tasks and working smarter. If you need to hire more people put a case forward and do it rather than complaining about it.

4. Introduce new initiatives and lead from the front. Supporting other departments is great, but HR should also be introducing, implementing and leading new initiatives. Getting buy-in from the top and making sure all employees are engaged is only the first step. These ideas then need to be refined, continuously improved and developed. Introducing an initiative only to let it die in a few months will be much worse for your reputation than never having introduced it.

5. The company’s corporate values should align with everything the business does. HR should ensure that these are actually used for decision-making, not just as a list of words for the website that no one knows about. Defined values that employees engage with help to create a strong company culture. This will deliver measurable results on morale, teamwork and, in the long term, profits.

6. Ensure managers are fit for purpose and receive the right training. Someone being good at their job is not enough for them to be promoted to manage a department. Bad managers can ruin company culture and demotivate staff, resulting in the loss of valuable employees. Management needs regular training too, and if they aren’t making the grade then their roles should be redefined to best suit their skills.

7. Collaborating with other departments will work in your favour. HR is the heart of the business but the department cannot be successful alone. For example, HR should work more closely with sales to understand the customer and with marketing to communicate more effectively. Marketing ensures HR communications are not only branded appropriately but also that they sound a little more creative than an otherwise boring memo. In turn HR ensures marketing communications are legally compliant and often has input on the content.

8. Get rid of ridiculous policies and integrate trust. Some policies are essential but others are unnecessary and rude. HR shouldn’t require an employee to bring in a death certificate or proof of funeral service at already emotional times. Trusting staff and showing some degree of flexibility will deliver results.

9. Be seen to be supportive as opposed to obstructive. If people want to do something you don’t agree with or that isn’t standard practice listen to why they want to do this (what they want to achieve) and suggest alternative options that could have the same results. Employees usually know what they want to achieve but perhaps not the most appropriate way to get there, from an HR perspective. Listening to and assisting them will deliver better results than a flat out ‘no you can’t do that’.

10. Process data and use analytics tools. The ability to process data and make use of thorough analysis will greatly assist HR in its mission to become more strategic. HR should be striving to improve its activities over time and this can only be monitored by measuring results. ROI is an integral part of any strategic function, so make sure you know what this is for your department.

Nabila Aydin is VP global marketing and North America HR operations at FDM Group