… ‘but I thought HR was about Tea and Tissues’?
For more than three decades far too many of us in HR have been battling the low regard in which so many hold HR. We have never really shared our thoughts about how to raise the credibility of the function, so let’s explore some of the issues and then some of the opportunities HR professionals can use to constructively build credibility and improve impact.
The issues: what people say about HR – ring any bells?
Passing the buck to avoid the difficult stuff or avoid the responsibilities that come with managing staff
- From a ‘Warehouse Manager’ to the HR Manager ‘I don’t manage my team that’s HR’s job!’ (he had a team of 80)
- ‘Jess is off sick, please can you manage her’ from a Department Head to the HR Manager
- ‘She’s pregnant and you can handle the conversation better’
Passing the buck because you have no admin support (LEAN somehow came in ahead of Common Sense)
- ‘My new employee wasn’t set up properly, your onboarding needs work’ – said to the HR Director with a team that is definitely not responsible for setting up email addresses, permissions and issuing tech hardware.
- ‘The kitchen is a mess, please get it sorted and put up notices to make sure people leave it as they find it’
Passing the buck because you view HR as the dumping ground for anything that doesn’t sit anywhere in particular
- ‘Can I supply you with personal goods such as Tampax for your toilets? HR looks after the toilets don’t they, because people use them?’ An external sales rep speaking to the HR manager.
- ‘As HR Manager in a large hotel, I was once asked by the Hotel Manager to organise the Gideon bible distribution to bedrooms’
- ‘Make sure that everyone has a footer and uses it as that’s essential for our branding and comms’ – said to the HR Director
Passing the buck because you don’t value HR’s knowledge and expertise
- ‘Can you organise a leaving gift and card for one of our team?’ said by a junior member of staff to the HR Director of a business
- The CEO introduces the new HR Director: ‘HR organises social do’s and the Christmas party, as well as being there if you have any questions’ (How incredibly vague and insulting is that!!)
Passing the buck because you still think HR is about tea and sympathy
- ‘But I thought HR was mostly Tea and Tissues’
- ‘I don’t do tears, so please can you give her the bad news that she hasn’t passed probation’ – from a Manager to the HR team
And other comments that undermine what we do or damage our reputation in the business
- ‘All HR does is observe what is going on and dole out punishment when people step out of line’ – Sales Director to the HR Director
- ‘HR either wears pink or black. Your clothes tell us whether you are on a welfare day or a grim reaper day’
We despair … too many think that HR is about admin, parties, joiners, leavers, tears, the difficult stuff, the no one knows where it sits stuff and the boring stuff! Does that sum it up? Oh NO!
But rather than immediately point the finger, we rather feel that HR can at times be its own downfall. Too often not being clear about where the boundaries are, a tendency to talk ourselves down, rather than up, excelling at the admin (a strength that has become our weakness!), allowing ourselves to get stuck in the weeds, not clamouring for influence on the Board and not saying ‘no’ often enough!
We also don’t spend enough time ferreting out the ‘root cause’ of issues and problematic behaviours, often preferring instead the perceived ‘glory’ of fire fighting the day to day stuff. It feels good to be busy doesn’t it, but all too often do others see us as ‘busy fools’?
Opportunities to raise HR credibility
If any of this is sounding familiar, you are not alone, we have worked with many HR professionals on raising profile and credibility. But now let’s take a look at the opportunities – opportunities that could make a difference to how we feel about our roles, how the organisation perceives our role and what we can actually achieve and deliver in the role. Let’s take a look at those:
1. Develop assertiveness
We have a day-on-day opportunity to build our assertiveness, a great skill for life: ‘I love that you approached me with this, but it is not within my remit. Would you speak to the CEO to see if we have money in the budget for me to recruit an office admin for you?’
Professional, assertive, an eye on solving the problem, delivering value, not getting sucked in
2. Re-write our own job description and through that reposition the HR Function
It is well past time that we spent time, internally within HR, defining who we are, what we do and what skill set and experience we need to do that. Some great time reflecting following by the production of a written document will give us the confidence to know that we can and must stick to the role we were employed to do and that will bring maximum value.
Professional, focus on the value we bring, re-engage and re-motivate our own HR staff, heads out of weeds
3. Profile raising
We all know that HR is in a great position to drive cultural change, drive up standards, set the tone that leads others, challenge thinking etc but to do that we need to have a high profile and have high influence. How about ‘I am going to take all these little HR micro aggressions (tea and tampax – no way!) and drive a profile raising initiative in the business for those of us in HR. What do we do, what value do we bring, what are our boundaries, how will we drive influence across the organisation?’
Assertiveness, strategic, focus on ROI, focus on the outputs of HR not the inputs, become an organisational leadership function (rather than just a function that mops up the mess)
4. Learn how to say ‘no’
The more we practise saying ‘no’ the easier it will become and the less ‘rubbish jobs’ will come our way. We need to take pride in what we do and who we are and, as a result, know when we need to say ‘no’. Agreeing to what we don’t want to agree to, saying ‘yes’ when in fact we mean ‘no’, hinting at a ‘no’ rather than saying it loud and clear, all undermine our profession.
Assertiveness, refusal to accept being in the weeds, taking greater pride in our expertise
5. Practise accountability and responsibility, using language that is confident and professional
Whilst it is helpful to say we will organise the Christmas party that has been flung our way, if that then takes away from time for us to develop the leaders in the business or time to reflect on how to tackle a retention issue, then we are not being responsible and accountable. We are busy, but we have failed as an HR function to prioritise what is important and what adds value to the organisation. It may be that the goodwill and engagement that comes out of a great party adds value, but just check that you are organising your own priorities rather than someone else organising them for you.
Ability to prioritise, focus on value, confidence to say ‘no’, leading by example with accountability
There is so much knowledge and expertise within a professional HR function – from employment law, best practise, employee relations, L&D, wellbeing, recruitment, compensation and benefits, communication, unions/staff reps – that we do ourselves a disservice if we allow others to see nothing more than great administrators.
But if all of this feels like too much of a challenge, they why not pick it off step by step:
Some YouTuve clips for you take a look at:
- Jeff Muirs – Accountability and Responsibility
- Brenee Brown – Courage
- Simon Sinek – Start with Why
- Robert Cialdini – Science of Persuasion
You can also book a session with one of the Jaluch team for you and your fellow HR Team to reflect, plan and prepare for a step change in what you do, how you do it and how you are valued within your organisation. Take a look at our building credibility for HR training page, Send us an email of call us on 01425 479888 for more info.
Do you have any of your own stories, comments or opinions you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! Leave them in the comments section below 🙂