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Do You Know What the Role of HR Is?

No, that title isn't a joke. Do you know what HR's role is?

The reason I ask is because, in my work as an HR professional, I've encountered a lot of different perceptions of what the function of Human Resources is. Probably most often, I run into the assumption that HR is a strict enforcer of rules, and/or a iron-willed maker of decisions. The cops of the company. This perception doesn't just come from operations either... many folks in HR believe that they are gatekeepers of decisions too.

I've written before (read it HERE!) about how I don't subscribe to that, about how I believe HR's responsibility is to be a partner to the business, providing guidance to employees and direction to the company about how to achieve their talent goals. But HR shouldn't make the decision to hire someone - the hiring manager should. HR can then support onboarding and employee development in order to help the hiring manager and new hire be as successful as possible. The same goes for firing someone - HR should provide guidance and assess the risk of a termination, but should not be the person making the decision (unless the employee works directly for them).

That's what it means to be a partner.

One of my favorite partnerships of all time started with a Mining Operations Leader who, upon meeting me, wanted nothing, absolutely NOTHING, to do with me or HR. They were gruff and made it quite clear that they would only inform me of what they did on their sites out of strict necessity. And yes, it was often after the action had been taken. I spent some time with this leader and we chatted about how I'm not there to undermine their authority (in fact, they could do what they wanted), but I was there to help out when decisions are made, provide guidance, assess risk, and ensure the employee was considered. Within a few months, this person turned into one of my biggest advocates! They even told other managers to "just call Christi!" whenever they had a problem, "she'll help you sort through it."

It's a big perception change, I know. From stern cops to knowledgeable and approachable partners.

Even HR departments themselves across the country are still grappling with this difference. There's been a major culture shift over the past few years from business-centered leadership to human-centered leadership. Companies are moving towards prioritizing their people and their well-being, instead of merely seeing the workforce as a means to an end. Truly this culture shift started before 2020, but the pandemic definitely ramped it up, as employees were suddenly much more interested in feeling a sense of belonging than being pacified with bean bag chairs in the office, and leadership had to respond.

And who's a better authority on anything human-centered than Human Resources?

This culture reset from business-centered leadership to human-centered leadership was, in my opinion, really championed by HR professionals out there, and it also led to an expansion of the traditional HR duties into more of a partner or consultant role.

This reinvention of how our leadership functions and how our HR teams partner with that function has been so beneficial to employee experience and, as a result, the overall health of the company. So I encourage you to examine what you think HR's role is, versus what it is and what it could be.


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