Human Resources

How HR can build trust (and fix its reputation)

Lydia Watson

Sales people are loud, tech teams are nerdy – right? Obviously that’s not true, but stereotypes about the different departments of your organisation do exist. For HR, those assumptions are often particularly unfair. And that means redefining the role and value of Human Resources professionals.

“What does HR do?”: the perception of roles and responsibilities

Payroll and holiday allowances, team socials and perks, hiring and firing, protecting the company’s legal interests, listening to employee’s complaints or concerns – there’s a whole range of things that HR could be responsible for, due to their ever-evolving role.  But what’s the general impression of how well they do any of this?

In one study, 49% of employees said their HR team was “somewhat capable” – showing a fairly neutral view of the value they add. Though as their tasks have traditionally involved keeping things running smoothly, rather than bringing anything new to the table, that might not be all bad news. Though as we believe that HR has more to offer, it’s important they make that clear to their organisations too: as other research found that only 9% of managers are “very happy” about how HR data is shared with other teams.

“Can we trust HR?”: assumed allegiances and motivations

But the reputation issue that HR has goes beyond their perceived ability. Really, it’s about trust. And that comes down to one key question: who are they working for? One poll saw that over 50% of respondents think HR sides with the organisation over its people – and many experts in the field would reinforce that belief, agreeing that HR “does not exist to help people” but agree to save and make companies’ money.

Employees are advised to be cautious too – warned not to share potentially compromising information, and that the department’s goal is just to keep the company “out of trouble”. But if your teams don’t trust HR enough to be open with them, that’s a problem – as it won’t give them the insights they need to fulfill their role as a strategic function.

Redefining the purpose of HR: the next steps

The history of HR is long and complex – born from the post-WW2 talent shortage, and the “urgent need to develop and retain talent”, then shifting from primarily focusing on hiring and firing, to training and development, and now often just damage control.

But while a HR professional’s identity can be a conflicted one – torn between adding value to the organisation and being a ‘people person’ – there is a way to bring the two together. To be trusted by employees, and bring a business case for HR to leaders. It means making HR a strategic function, using powerful tools and the right attitude.

3 steps to building trust, using the right tools

To make HR a trusted part of your organisation – from its strategic function for leaders, to encouraging honesty from employees – make the most of its people-centric position. That means listening to employees: something we’ve shown can influence growth, profit, and NPS.

1. Encourage honesty, promise anonymity

If your people don’t trust HR, they won’t give you the honest answers that lead to change. Not only do we offer anonymous and confidential survey options to facilitate this, but our platform is carefully designed to prevent you pinpointing exactly who’s said what – even when responses are filtered by team and demographics – so they can speak freely, without fear of retribution.

2. Listen carefully, answer with actions

Listening is an empty exercise, unless you use what you’ve learned to make positive changes. Our language technology is designed to uncover the common problems affecting different groups, so it’s easier to identify what changes could impact organisational performance. And as those are changes backed up by data, it’s easy to make a clear business case.

3. Communicate clearly to leaders and teams

If one of HR’s problems is that people don’t understand what it’s for, or the value it adds, then show them! Explain your changes to employees, and how they’re linked to their feedback, and use our intuitive leadership reports and managers dashboards to explain the data justification for change to senior teams.

HR can change organisations for the better – and our platform can help. See how it works:

It’s time to start the conversation

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