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What Line Managers say about HR ?
Human Resources » Case Studies

Chrm Message From: proftandon Total Posts: 101 Join Date: 04/09/2006
Rank: Leader Post Date: 01/04/2008 10:19:02 Points: 505 Location: United States

On a fortunately short flight the person sitting next to me hadn't even put his brief case away or fastened his seatbelt before asking me what I "did." Most line managers have to be prodded to find out what they really think of HR but this mutual fund company executive was an exception. And none of it was good.

After the flight I realized that I was so taken aback that I had tuned out most of the diatribe. I also realized that we in HR don't ask for feedback often enough. We need to know what the line really thinks of our work and whether or not we agree, deal with it. Knowing the worst of it is the only way we in HR can hope to ever really delight our customers and push ourselves to higher levels of customer desired performance.

In a quest for the worst of it I asked thirty line mangers in different industries throughout the U.S. what they really thought of HR. After the fluff, and there was also much good in what they said, I insisted on the negatives. Here is a somewhat organized summary of their responses, just the bad and ugly:

Don't say you want to be a partner, be one. Real partners don't just say it, they do it. No one cares what HR wants. I don't care what anyone wants except my customers. Stop obsessing about a seat at the table. Prove your value and when you should have one you will.

Have some understanding of what I do. Every person is different and so is every business unit. Take the time to know what is different about us, how we work.
Walk with me. Periodically be with me as I face the routine, don't just be there for the celebrations and troubles.

Help me to do the right thing. I want to do the right thing, work with me so I can understand. Help me to help my people and very importantly, my management to understand.

Be proactive. I value the HR perspective but all too often it is hindsight offered in the midst of dealing with a problem that probably could have been avoided. Think ahead, sit with me and plan ahead.

Explain, don't tell. I don't want my employees to do what I tell them, I want them to do what they understand. HR should be the same way. "HR" is preachier than "Personnel" was.
Help me to accomplish my objectives. Review them with me and tell me how HR may be able to help. I'm confident HR could be a big help with what really matters to my job and career. Everything else is at best secondary to me.

You don't have to come to all my meetings. There seems to be two types of HR professionals. Those that attend all my staff meetings and those that are rarely if ever seen. Come if and when it will be of value - to both of us - otherwise don't. You must have something more important to do.

Admit when you make mistakes. In my experience HR has a tendency to be the master of obfuscation - such that I can only assume they're ducking responsibly. The rest of the business world knows it makes mistakes and is better at confessing up.

Give me a chance to address differences before going around me. You have to give supervisors the chance to address issues with staff or management before blowing a whistle on them. Most of us learned this when we first started working and I really resent it when the HR police get involved.

I don't know what you do? I'd like to spend a day with an HR representative and see what they do and how they do it. I'd really like to know.

You can skip the silly stuff. Best leave the recipe books and dress up or down days to the employees to pursue if they wish. You say HR is a serious function, act it.

Speak in my language. I don't want to work with HR representatives that don't know our lexicon. We can't work together if we can't communicate in the language of my business. I'll help anyone to learn if they really want to.

Use numbers that make sense to me. HR always has its own numbers that don't match anyone else's. Use the same numbers everyone else does.

I could use a coach too; and how about developing me. I appreciate the time my staff gets but I tend to think that coaching me would benefit my whole department. I understand the importance of the high potential programs but don't forget about me. I can do more.

Contribute or leave. In any conversation, meeting, or exchange, if you are not clearly helping, go and hopefully help someone else. And the superfluous and spurious attempts at contributing are even worse than not saying anything at all.

Work with me. I can't always do everything you want, the way you wan, when you want. Okay, it's that sometimes I don't want to do what you want, the way you want, when you want. But we usually have the same end in mind so be flexible and work with me to get there. Negotiating is an effective and positive business practice.

Just because it is a policy doesn't make it right. HR holds on to outdated and just plain counter productive policies and practices. Take the high road and do the right thing for the sake of our customers, employees, and business.

Make up your mind. Something is always the latest "most important." And it never seems to have any thing to do with my shop and it takes me away from my work. You can't mandate or teach ethics or sensitivity. If I do something unethical fire me and if I'm not sensitive punish me.

I'm not convinced I need HR. Show me the value you create.

When I first started collecting this information I found myself interrupting the managers and starting to "correct" their perspectives. It wasn't a very helpful or logical response. If the feedback has made you defensive go back and read it again later.

Actually this isn't very bad, considering it is the worst of the worst said about HR. There is probably a similar list for every other function or profession. What is important is for us to take this very seriously. To consider the feedback, make the changes we're sure of, and keep the rest in mind.

And most importantly, to keep asking.

Source: Unknown


Prof Tandon

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