Is HR Misunderstood? Here Are Five Ways To Make It More Human

Over the years, many employees have criticised HR’s function – either it’s impractical and overly bureaucratic, or it doesn’t appear to have a strategic purpose. HR is supposed to improve productivity, but too often seems to be an impediment. For someone without a deep knowledge of workplace issues, this frustration can feel familiar.

HR can indeed appear overbearing at times, and, at worse, aimless. So what can HR do to make their department more relatable? The answer: incorporate regular employee feedback into the HR decision process.

A Brief History Of HR

HR is a relatively flexibly industry. People change, trends come and go, and corporate cultures shift to suit the economic climate. During the 1990s dot-com boom, for example, HR experienced something of a heyday as companies began competing fiercely for talent, pouring resources into making themselves stand out as the employer of choice.

But ten years later when the bubble burst, attracting talent moved far down in the list of company priorities: wages stayed flat, productivity rose and hence HR lost some of its influence.

Now, in 2016, HR has taken on new purpose with the emergence of employee engagement. What does this teach us about what employees really want from their professional life, and how do we ensure that’s realised and contributes to the business’s bottom line?

Methods for Boosting The Employee Voice

HR functions much more efficiently, and employees feel more engaged, when they can share their thoughts in a way that’s practical, and when they can see directly how their feedback is having an impact.

Engage For Success offer some great ways to ensure employees get a chance to share their feedback:

  • Always-on employee engagement surveys – an online and mobile solution that asks employees to complete a regular anonymous feedback survey on how engaged they are with their work. The software looks at various different customisable factors (e.g. management, salary, benefits, work-life balance, etc.) and tracks the relationship between the satisfaction and the importance of each factor.
  • Online suggestions box – this is an online, anonymous forum where ideas for company improvements can be posted and voted on. Those that attract the most votes progress to a further stage of consideration.
  • “Graffiti walls” – a similar idea, where staff can write comments on a white board wall in the office; keeping it in an area with high footfall means colleagues can stay up to date and add further suggestions.
  • Regular face-to-face meetings – this gives senior leaders an opportunity to tell staff about developments in the organisation, and invite them to express concerns, share their ideas, and ask for volunteers to be involved in further thinking and discussions.
  • “Big conversations” – this is where the whole organisation discusses a topic in small groups, all staff are invited to share comments and ideas and the conversation develops in response to the feedback received.

Engaged employees are those who feel like where they work is more than just a job – they come to work every day because they feel invested in the company itself. HR should support this by regularly making sure their opinions get heard.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.

Author: Luke Rees

Luke is a digital marketing executive from London who writes extensively about management and HR tech.

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