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Can HR be your friend?

One of my guilty pleasures – and god knows I’ve got enough of them – is lurking on the workplace stackexchange, where workers ask and answer workplace questions that range from the mundane, through the mildly troubling, right up to utterly ridiculous – but almost all of them are quite interesting.

Still if there’s one thing that site users agree on is this – HR is not your friend.

Working in HR Software this troubles me somewhat and I’m curious as to why this is the case! The members of that site would have it that at best I’m facilitating the meddling of the billy-no-mates of the corporate world (HR) with the employees that actually matter, at worst I’m enabling abuse (of myself).

HR may not be your friend

But it could at least be or should be your favourite aunt and uncle (you know the ones). I think this analogy works better for me, as HR are actively encouraged not to be friends with employees and to establish boundaries. But as an employees we need to feel comfortable to approach HR, even if they aren’t my bestie.

But I’ve been thinking more recently about how we really could facilitate the kind of HR department that wants to do more than just protect the company, but really wants their employees to succeed and excel (if that’s what they want). Some of these ideas are fairly obvious,

  • Listen… shouldn’t they be doing this already? No, really listen to our needs and concerns as employees. Not the usual ‘corporate lip-service’ or the annual pulse survey
  • Recognition and reward…And what I mean here is more than the usual off-the-shelf approach. Something that is meaningful for me, as what works for me is different to the guy I sit next too (well used to before social distancing). Allow me to recognise the work my co-workers do – when they have gone the extra mile. A big picture flexible rewards program – from child care to pizza
  • Support MY development and growth – I might not want to go on a course, but writing a blog like this… well that’s good for me!

Other ideas…

…are a product of our special covid-y times and would have sounded insane a year or two ago. I haven’t thought these through so maybe they’re fatally flawed in one way or another, but just off the top of my head:

  • Covid has fallen unevenly both between and within businesses. Strong businesses may need to let whole departments go. How about a specialist training service to bring employees into another part of the business– or a careers service to assist your former employees who have unique skills your former competitors would need? A decade ago this would have been simply impractical; with modern software it’s possible now
  • Clearly there’s going to be a lot more home working. Zoom and Slack are great at what they do but they’re not fully featured managerial suites. How can we adjust our software to enable your previously face to face business processes to be done remotely?
  • For those who are coming back, sure there’s stuff like season ticket loans already but what about a more flexible solution that combines car pooling (when we can be in the car with someone outside our bubble), bike-to-work, uber, smartcard train tickets and more – all linked to your rota? We could do it. Sounds fun.
  • Maybe your employees are going to be moving out of the south east to civilised parts of the country. Are you anticipating a deluge of letters confirming employment and salary to mortgage agents as staff exit highly populated areas to get more space and more for their money? Or do you recruit skilled software extensively from overseas? Perhaps you’d like to automate visa applications so we can work anywhere in the world?

There’s plenty more where this came from – but what it all comes down to is that HR doesn’t have to be Catbert. It can and should be thinking about how it can benefit employees, because this is what a healthy company does. The reality, as we all know is that our people are the lifeblood of any business, so happy employees results in a thriving business.

A final thought

I did say HR could be an aunty or uncle, but never reclaimed the term ‘friend’ and I think that works better. Well, another guilty recent pleasure of mine is Little People, a reality TV show involving dwarfs. The details vary, but a common device involves two dwarves declaring themselves best friends one episode, before being at each others throats the next. And so I’m comfortable with HR being close family, rather than best friend. Blood is thicker than water, after all.

If you have any features you’d like to see in your HR software, we’re dying to hear from you. Get in touch.

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