HR – The Importance Of Having A Conversational Relationship With Employees


Human Resources is the division of a company that is focused on the recruiting and hiring of new employees, orientation and training of current employees, employee benefits, and retention.

But what is the purpose of Human Resources?

I would offer that the purpose of Human Resources is to build and retain the talent that will propel your organization to success.  But many HR Departments have become so mired in the administrative and legal functions of Human Resources that they are no longer able to effectively fulfill their purpose.  

In fact, the reality is that many HR departments have entirely lost sight of their purpose; getting directly involved with employees only at the start and end of their employment or when an issue has spiraled so far out of control that the damage can’t truly be repaired.  As a result HR has become a source of fear for many employees.

We need to do better.  We need to be building open and trusting relationship with our employees. And yes, they are our employees, not just the company’s employees, or the management’s employees.  The very nature of our position within a company means that we are going to have an impact on the lives and careers of every employee whether we become directly involved with them or not.   We must accept that we are responsible for the positive or negative employee experiences at our companies.  If we are to be effective at managing these experiences, we must take ownership of the employee experience.

So, how do employees see HR?  

In many cases, they see HR only as the people who enforce the company policy, existing only to keep the company safe from legal actions.  To get a call from HR is to immediately worry that you are about to be disciplined or let go. Many employees never have a positive experience with their HR Department outside of their initial hire.  And even then, many don’t view that experience positively either. And that is a problem we need to address.

We need to begin becoming partner’s with our employees; being part of how they manage their career goals and develop their job skills.  Our employees need to know that we value them enough to help them succeed. If we want to build employee loyalty, they need know that we are invested in them.  

We need to be seen walking the halls and stopping by desks.  We need to ask our employees how they are doing. I know that in larger organizations, this can be difficult.  Even in smaller ones it isn’t always easy. But it is important. The simple act of asking how someone is doing can change an employee’s entire outlook on their day and the company as a whole.  

We need our employees to know that they are always welcome to bring their concerns to us. We also need them to trust that they will be treated fairly when they do. Employees who are concerned about their work performance and want to improve; who have a personal issue and may need an adjustment of schedule to address it; or an employee who wants to know how to advance to a higher position should all be able to approach us and have a conversation.  We do need to be careful and we do have to protect the company, but we can do this and be there for our employees as well.

This is what I mean when I say we need to have a conversational relationship with our employees. We need to be part of their work-lives rather than remaining aloof and distant. We need them to want to come to us with their concerns and aspirations.  We need to listen to them and offer feedback.

There is one other key aspect of building a conversational relationship with our employees that we need to discuss briefly.  

We need to seek input from our employees about the initiatives that will affect them or that they will be asked to implement.  This is something we need to be doing during the development phase as often as possible, and to do that we must also have a conversational relationship with our executive and management teams.  

Our management and executive teams need to know and trust us well enough to include us in every planning session so that we can offer input on how new policies, procedures, or initiatives might affect, or be perceived by, our employees.  We need them to trust us when we recommend that we solicit input and feedback from employees outside of the management structure.

Bringing our employees into the process by seeking their input accomplishes two things; greater success in rolling out new initiatives and making them feel valued.

In many cases our employees will be able to see issues that those of us who are not performing the day-to-day functions of the company would not even know to look for.  If we fail to include them in the planning of the very initiatives that they will be tasked with, we will fail to understand the needs and issues present at the implementation level.   When companies choose not to seek the input from these valuable and experienced employees, they run a greater risk of initiative failures.

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