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Why HR is Critical to Employee Morale, Productivity, and Innovation

Why HR is Critical to Employee Morale, Productivity, and Innovation - ibuildcompanies by Jeanne Heydecker

In a company I worked with in India, we had a town meeting in the office and the CEO updated everyone on the status on the growth and successes of the group of companies we all worked for and congratulated everyone on the great job we’d done moving them forward that year. He did a great job, then opened the floor for questions or issues. Everything seemed to center on the HR person, who frankly, had been pretty useless during my tenure there. She was one of those people who did exactly what the CEO asked and nothing more.

People complained about pretty simple things like when sending emails telling us to register ourselves for our health insurance by a certain deadline, she would never put links to the site in the emails or ways to remember your password. She was also chastised for never answering her emails. She was also put to task for never following up on requests – one woman had been waiting nine months for a decision on her transportation issue.

Another gent questioned why training was not available for all staff. She replied that the training room could only hold ten people and he replied that he worked in a team of six, and that certain people were getting trained on preference, which was a mistake. She had no answer for it because it was definitely a political issue and she couldn’t respond honestly. Everyone knew this. It was obvious.

Lots of people complained about never having formal appraisals with their department head. Very true, I never had an appraisal in all four years I’d worked there. She muttered something about talking to your department heads, but she, as the head of HR, was personally responsible for ensuring this activity takes place.

Other people complained about the Employee of the Month program, a simple recognition with an emailed Powerpoint certificate (that you have to print out yourself) with no public email or ceremony that was useless. I agree. It was so obviously political. The people that got them were never the ones bringing in 70% of the sales revenue, or the person who built four trade show booths in the span of six weeks, because they were the ones who were not the friends of HR and not political. They were focused on getting their jobs done well. It was a joke to all the employees.

Another person brought up the birthday parties, saying they were a waste of their time that could be better spent working instead of sitting in a windowless room drinking soda and eating sweets, just staring at each other. Most people went, because they felt they had to go, but spent their time focused on their cellphones.

Someone else brought up the issue of holiday parties (with mandatory attendance) that were announced then cancelled at the last minute. People had to make individual arrangements to travel to these parties, including their family members, etc., causing not only additional personal time canceling their travel, but caused a feeling that the company didn’t really care about them.

HR is supposed to not only enforce the policies of the company, and recruit new staff, but they need to establish a positive working environment for people to get their jobs done effectively. They should be enabling hiring managers and providing the training and tools required for managers to bring out the best in their teams. Most companies don’t understand how vital a role HR is in moving a company forward. They are not only required, but they should be instrumental in providing a work environment that allows staff members to do the best work possible, meeting deadlines, while keeping under budget.

There is a lot of work to do, and HR professionals need to start doing their jobs and advocating for the people they work for: the company AND the staff. The company is nothing without its employees, and companies that don’t care about them, get that feeling reciprocated. It develops into a strictly transactional relationship where you only get what you demand from each employee and they leave exactly at closing time, investing no more in the company than the company invests in them.

At another company in India, from the CEO down, they focused on being fair and treating all employees equally. Senior management was genuinely liked by the rest of of the team because we were open and honest with them, enforcing an open door policy for folks to share their ideas and suggestions for improving processes, or making sales. When senior management advocates for all employees, demanding respect for everyone and the services they individually contribute to the company, employees feel a part of something and genuinely want to come to work, be productive, and feel good at the end of the day, having taken pride in a job well done. This happens through genuine and authentic care about your employees. You can’t fake this. You can quickly see the difference when you visit different organizations.

HR requires support from senior management in order to be effective. That said, HR needs to understand its value and market that value upward. HR needs to report on their activities regularly and identify programs that cut costs, increase productivity and innovation, and create a work environment where employees actually look forward to coming to work. HR should also review their online reputation on web sites such as glassdoor.com where employees can post reviews, salaries and other information anonymously. They should take to heart any negative comments and attempt to fix them. They should respond to all reviews, good and bad. One good thing for HR to do is to set up a Google Alert with their company name and its C-Level employee names, just to monitor what people may be saying across the internet. They can research, plan, and negotiate interesting benefits and other perks such as work-from-home policies. (We had a 24-hour massage center in one company I worked with, plus a concierge service to pick up your dry cleaning, pay your bills, etc., along with a financial advisor on-call to help you manage your bonuses and other incentives. This enabled us to decrease our monthly night shift resignations from 6% a month to less than .01%.)

HR shouldn’t be seen just as a service that hires people and plans parties. They have a serious job to do. They need to focus on getting a seat in the boardroom because what they do affects every person in the company, how much they look forward to coming to work, how productive they are, how innovative they will be, and how long they will stay. Happy employees will also tell their friends about their job and can act as advocates by recommending their friends to become new employees.

Finding the best quality people requires putting in the work to create the best quality work environment for them to find meaning and feel proud to tell people they work at your company. Only then is HR’s job complete.

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