HR: Human Resources

“Because I’m a people person.”

I will never forget my college professor telling our class that this was the worst answer to the interview question “why did you get into HR?”  She was right, of course.  However, over recent months I’ve heard many HR horror stories that make me wonder if some HR professionals need to re-visit their roots. 

The call that never comes.  Anyone who has ever been searching for a job while unemployed knows how difficult this time can be.  You send applications out into an abyss rarely knowing whether they were received or not.  With today’s technology, I’ve never understood HR not being able to set up an automatic reply to all prospective employees keeping them abreast of the process.  Simple messages stating your résumé has been received and eventually when the position has been filled or the search closed.  Worse than that, is when a recruiter interviews a candidate for a position and never follows up.  It’s a 30 second phone conversation that is uncomfortable for both parties, but it provides closure for everyone. 

Throw the book at them.  I think employee policies should be simple.  They should state what the rule is and what an employee needs to do if they find themselves in that situation.  There is an art to translate complex ideas into simple language that all people can understand.  Long explanations about complicated legislation and detailed processes that can change are unnecessary and can lead to confusion, particularly if an employee is accessing this information during a stressful time.  What I’ve heard lately are employee experiences where their inquiries get bounced around from department to department trying to find an answer.  While I appreciate there can be a certain amount of subject matter ownership, HR should act as their guide and offer to find the information together. 

Next steps.  While it is definitely challenging to navigate the recruitment process as an external candidate, it can be even more difficult when you are an internal applicant.  I’ve been told awful tales about internal screening processes that required step after step, in fact it appears that an external person was hired with less rigour at the very same time.  Internal candidates can lose interest as quickly as an external individual.  Without clear communication about the purpose of the hiring process, it is possible to take someone who was interested and engaged in taking a progressive career step to a person who is not motivated, feels used and wonders if their organization values them at all. 

We all have bad days.  No one is perfect.  Projects and timelines get delayed and stalled.  But as HR, we have the word human in the title for a reason.  Our policies and procedures are made for people not created in spite of them.  While we can’t grant every employee’s request and meet everyone’s expectations, we can provide a customer service experience that our clients – our employees – can respect.

This begins with honest, direct communication, meeting commitments and demonstrating empathy.  It isn’t complicated, but it does require effort. 

Friends in HR, I know we can do better than these stories.  Many of us do.  Let's make these experiences the rare instead of the norm.  We aren’t paper-pushers after all, we are people people.