When Good HR People Go Bad: How to Improve HR’s Bad Reputation

I have heard a lot of people complain about HR at their company. It seems to be common practice to talk about how incompetent HR people are. Let’s face it: we often get a bad rap. While there are HR people out there who give us a bad reputation, I think there are far more of us working hard to do good for the employees and companies we work with. Here are some tips to help improve the reputation of HR at your company.

Not Just the Policy Police

In HR, we get to know our company policies really well. It can be frustrating when a manager does not follow the correct procedure for submitting performance reviews or when an employee does not fill out insurance forms completely. I used to work with someone who would snap at employees whenever they failed to fill out a form correctly. She quickly earned a reputation for being unhelpful, and employees would be afraid to ask her for help for fear that they would be snapped at for not following a policy correctly.

We need to remember our internal customer service and treat employees like they are our customers. This requires patience with employees and going the extra mile to sit down with someone to help them fill out a form. For example, leaves of absence can be complicated. Some companies just send an employee the leave paperwork without much guidance. They then get annoyed when an employee cannot manage to get paperwork in on time and completed correctly. Take the time to create easy-to-understand checklists and to sit down with the employee to review their responsibilities. Doing so will increase the chance that an employee will be able to complete all the required paperwork correctly and in a timely manner. It also builds a good relationship with the employee, so they are not afraid to come forward with questions.

Live Your Open Door Policy

A lot of employee handbooks have open door policies. Unfortunately not everyone truly lives by them. We need to maintain open channels of communication with our employees. This extends beyond simply having an open door policy in writing. Make time to talk with employees. Learn their names, and make small talk when you are out and about at your company. Do not see your employees as no more than their employee number.

When an employee shows up at your door with a problem, that should be your top priority. It is part of our job in HR to address employee complaints. It can be stressful to have an employee pop up unannounced to discuss trouble with a manager—especially when you have a bunch of other work to get done; however, we cannot take that stress out on the employee. Be present with the employee and ready to listen. If you have to put the employee off until later, schedule a time and stick to it.

Often when an employee comes to us with a problem, we do not always have an easy solution. If you have to send the employee away so that you can research their problem or do further investigation, remember to follow up with the employee.

Recognize employees

It is important that we work on creating open lines of communication in order to build trust with employees. We also need to make sure employees see us doing more than just firing and disciplining. If the only time you ever make it out of your office to interact with people is for such heavy tasks, employees are not going to see you as someone to turn to when they need help.

When you walk through a department, employees should not automatically assume you are there to be the policy enforcer. Do not let discipline and correction be all that employees hear from you. Recognize successes, and follow up with employees on a regular basis. Do not hesitate to say, “Good job!”

About the Author

Stephanie Hammerwold, PHR, is the owner of Hammerwold & Pershing Consulting and specializes in small business HR support. Stephanie is a regular contributor at Blogging4Jobs and The HR Gazette, and she gives presentations on a variety of job search and workplace topics. She specializes in training, employee relations, women’s issues and writing employment policy. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedInTwitter or Facebook.


Author: Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, PHR, is the co-owner of Hammerworld & Pershing and specializes in small business HR support. Stephanie writes as the HR Hammer and is a regular contributor at Blogging4Jobs, The HR Gazette and TalentCulture, and she gives presentations on a variety of job search and workplace topics. She specializes in training, employee relations, women’s issues and writing employment policy. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.

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