Jeanette Crisp asks whether you are actually listening to what staff want or are you hiding behind a maze of policies and processes.
I was having an interesting conversation the other day with a friend of mine (who doesn’t work in HR) which started out ‘you work in HR right? Can you explain to me why my HR department won’t talk to me? They either point me to their website for information or refer me to a policy and ask if I’ve read that before I ask them a question. Sometimes all I want is someone to talk to and just work though how we solve an issue – not to know what formal procedure I need to follow which often then makes a mountain out of a molehill!’
I was disappointed to know that they saw their HR function not as the enablers that we all aim to be but rather inhibitors – tying them up in process and paperwork. For this person the thought of going to HR was a last resort rather than seeing them as a trusted advisor and it made me wonder – how much do we make people’s lives easier or have we become cautious to the point where we default to formal process too quickly and have forgotten the human element of dealing with issues. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating ignoring policy and process, but I am advocating the power of a conversation and a framework to help resolve issues informally rather than resorting to process as a default.
One of the key roles we can play as HR is to help organisations risk manage situations – and the earlier people involve us in that conversation the better – but will they if they don’t feel we really listen? I have personally noticed that issues that become formal now seem to have much more complexity than they used to – with a number of interrelated policies and processes often called into play – and untangling those is an industry in itself. Could some of that be avoided with an earlier conversation and a range of approaches to resolution? Maybe … but until we get the chance to try we won’t know.
Now some of this takes courage, from HR as well as the organisation, which brings us back to risk management. But you also need a belief that you can achieve solutions in creative ways and that it will enable the organisation to pick a better path through the people issues maze. So ask yourself – how much to you actually listen to the organisation and have conversations about solutions …. Or are you the ‘prize’ at the centre of the maze when an issue has taken its convoluted route to you??