Has HR become so arrogant and self absorbed they've stopped caring?
In a recent YouGov and CIPD survey 48% of staff said they hadn't talked to their HR department in the last year.
A startling statistic. You can read almost anything into these stats and make anything of them, but the basic question must be asked, has HR lost it's personal (or personnel) touch.
Votes for 'Yes' to this question
It can be argued that many HR professionals see their position as a given right to lord it over employees and managers and expect respect, no matter what they do, have done or say they will do.
Respect is earned, I learned that a long time ago, when I floor walked twice a day and spoke to every single member of the workforce (and 1 per week on the night shift) for 15 minutes. It doesn't take that much to stay in touch, even if physical limits stop you, it's the mental ones we're more concerned about.
Communication methodologies have changed dramatically, especially with the rise of virtual teams. That's no excuse to solely rely on email to do your job for you or an annual employee engagement survey; it's simply not good enough.
How many HR people do you know spend time with external customers, let alone spend time in different parts of their businesses? Are they aware of key issues amongst different teams and business units within the organisation? Or do they rely on senior management to 'keep them in the loop'?
Time is precious, so using more formal communication strategies might seem the best option, it allows you to be persuaded by data, not just your favourites around the business... but does the data really reflect what's going on?
Votes for 'No' to this question
Of course HR hasn't stopped caring. It's full of professionals who care deeply about their organisations and the people in it, but the shifting challenges of the job mean their focus has to be more 'strategic'. Managers are the 'hands on' front of HR, the responsibility sits there, not in a single department, when was the last time anyone from Finance came to see you? Just because they are a central function doesn't mean they should visit you on a regular basis?
Change and the continued pace of change has created so many new issues for HR that the business agenda and a drive to be more effective using data, rather personal opinion, could mean you see less of them but they take better action.
Would you rather have a function that did great things or buzzed by and asked you how you were feeling? It's not easy balance to get right when you are fighting to get recognition at the highest levels and fight on behalf of the people in the whole organisation.
Tougher, new commercially minded competencies are at work in HR teams, expecting line managers to fulfill their natural role with a hands on HR approach, not rely on a central function.
It's not an easy balance to be struck, but this isn't the first time, the validity of many HR function's approach has been brought into question, often by disgruntled employees who get the hard end of the stick in the swings of HR strategy but also the industry and senior leaders are saying emotional intelligence is going out the window with these new approaches.
Having been there myself, I know the dilemmas, but being in touch with reality and the people you serve (internal customers) has to be pretty important part of the job, as far as I'm concerned.
(Just to let you know my strategy helped boost employee engagement by 10-12% in the 2 locations I worked and not for the reasons you think, I'll save that for another post).
JOHN | THINKING HR