10 Things HR won’t Say – A Review

Ten things HR won’t say was published recently in the Wall Street Journal. We take a re-look to discuss and understand the points mentioned from HR perspectives and reflect why it happens so.

“We are squeezed too”: This address the fact that HR function are changing in terms of the structure and processes.
HR Review : Lets take a look at this point a little closely. The recent economic downturn has put maximum pressure on the business to cut ‘costs’, hence HR being a ‘Cost-centre’ underwent the scrutiny. The processes were compressed to be managed by minimum number of team members. Tasks which could be managed or regrouped were reallocated. Such as, single point of contacts for HR was made from the members in operation or production to create a closer knit with the employees. This allowed HR to listen to the employee complaints through their representatives. It reduced the number of line HR required. Similarly, online or software based processes were preferred to the bigger team composition. For e.g: Time Office administration and resume refining were primarily done through software to cut down on the team members in recruitment and administration. Now, almost every activity in HR gets measured to justify the cost. These trends have shifted the focus from running the operational activities within the function to creating values and truly moving towards the ‘profit centre’.

“We are not always your advocate” : This point discusses, how an employee may trust the HR to be its advocate, yet it doesn’t hold true.
HR Review: Let’s take  a step back to relook at this point. The HR is expected to balance being an ’employee champion’ and a ‘business partner’ at the same time. Here decision making becomes accurate when both the areas are weighed and given the due importance. The stand taken may not seem favourable by the side which remained shadowed. For e.g.: During recession, when retrenchment was at its highest. The HR in a company may have suggested pay cuts to save job. An organization with a progressive management may have agreed to it and tagged HR as ‘Employee Champion’. Whereas in an organization with authoritative management it may have rejected the recommendation and cut down the jobs, the employees would have tagged HR as more of a ‘Business Partner’. Consequently, the balancing act leaves no one feel that the HR is advocating their side.

“….But we can help your career”: This point addresses the fact that the employees are unwilling to share their career aspects with HR. whereas it helps to keep HR in the loop. Sharing the initiative taken and interest areas with HR may help a next role change even a life saver during recession. HR are required to put a recommendation during the retrenchment.
HR Review: To understand this point lets take a step back and see where the ‘thought ‘ of keeping HR at a distant arise from. The employees are supposed to be mentored by their immediate reporting leaders. In case they have any question or need to escalate any concern, they meet HR. This communication may not always be handled rightly. Leading to mistrust and undermining the HR offering. Managing employee expectation is a principal area. The non-verbal cues and un-discussed wish-list builds up a belief system. It manages to push the employee away. Several HR initiatives such as One-on-One with HR, Brown bags, Steering Committee and etc fails because the trust has not been completely built. The credibility of the HR depends on the initiatives taken  and how it is delivered.

“Want the job? Then you’ll want to get to know us.” : This point explains how important it is to design a resume according to the need of the job posted, connecting directly with the HR even before the position is posted and valuing the communication at every level as they would have their say in the hiring process.
HR Review: The communication with the recruitment team is taken seriously, as the final decision is based on the perspectives formed, during the process. The HR looks for a pattern of behaviour to match it with the requirement. Here any message set across by the candidates is matched into of the criteria. This eventually forms the pattern which HR was looking for. Such as, If a candidate applies for a sales position and is not very assertive in following up the interview, it gives an impression, that the candidate might not be interested in the role. The non-verbal cues and the gap in the statements fall under the HR scrutiny. Hence it is important for the candidate to understand what the HR would be looking for and then apply. This can be easily done through the social communities, professional forums and professional grooming sessions.

“Yes, Facebook can get you fired.”: The fact  a disturbing expression made on the social media, by an employee can pose a threat to the job held. Here’s an anecdote, of an employee who made fun of a church service, is shared on the podcast made by him and it gets viewed by his boss. The expression seemed inappropriate, hence the boss fires the employee.
HR Review: Let’s look at the bigger picture, where an individual is free to choose his response during the time spent away from the work. The employee is an ambassador of the organization to the wider world. The way the employee lives and behaves, sets an illustration to the future hires and the client. Any act of irresponsibility works against the employee. Companies set guidelines for conduct in social media to avoid such situations.

“In some companies, we’re not very useful at all.”:This discusses the fact that the management of every firm may not foster HR initiative. Hence the function runs mechanistically without the impact of the human intervention.
HR Review: We do agree, not every organization would have a supportive attitude towards HR. Employee friendly processes may not be designed and run. This does impact the credibility of the HR as their potential to deliver on the organizational productivity gets negated. This leaves a very weak impression on employees. As mentioned in the article, it’s easy to detect when a fresh talent tries and probes to understand the HR contribution to an employee’s success. In a talent sensitive market, most of the organization prefers an employee friendly atmosphere.

“You’re not paranoid—we are watching you.” : Internet usage and email are monitored in every organization. Employees need to treat this as if the boss is reading all the emails.
HR Review: We take a look at why the monitoring is required. The communication system which is accessed by the employees shows analytics to the areas for usage. It further shares how the employees might be spending their time. A huge jump in spamming explains the low productivity. An email is an official document. It is in virtual form, hence can get across easily. If an email with a confidential content reaches an employee who is not suppose to receive it, it can create disastrous effect. Similarly when an email with an objectionable content is sent to anyone in the organization, it can result in loss of job for the sender, if reported. To avoid any such calamity a monitoring system is launched. It essentially keeps the users safe, when the rules are understood and followed

“Read the fine print”: Clauses such as Arbitration agreed upon by the employee may not be completely understood by them. This creates a dissonance later as it results differently to what was expected by the employee.
HR Review: The clauses for employment, compensation and job details are often designed as per the industry requirement. Most of the time, employees’ may not research enough to decipher the information shared with them. Hence, remain in the dark. HR does take initiative to explain the concepts through different programs such as focus-group sessions, townhalls and different courses such as certification on Code of Conduct. Companies require employees to be certified for Code of conduct, as it explains every detail about the employment with the company. Yet the understanding remains unclear leading to inaccurate concepts and ignorance. Same goes for compensation. The salary is discussed during the offer making stage. But, often the employee misses on calculating the deductions and taxes hence assumes a higher take home. Employment at will declaration is another area which is not understood by most of the employees, till they stand to disagree to certain changes which might not be acceptable for them. They completely miss the point that, they have already agreed to work under the conditions mentioned.

“We know more about you than you think.” : The back ground verification requires HR to find out every details relevant to the current role.
HR Review: The education, professional, personal and financial information of a new employee, explains how responsible and fit the candidate is for the current role. The educational background vouch for the intellectual capabilities and the jobs taken so far makes them professionally viable. The financial history may not be required in every role, but a clear detail of taxation puts the employee in the responsible citizen category. Hence, the background verification information of a new employee is the building block for its credibility. If the talent remains honest and shares every detail clearly, it puts them in the line rather than fudging the information.

“We love tests.”: Different tests are designed to find the best fitted candidate for the role. The result of the test is given important more than the past experience. Though, it may not be the best information to take a decision.
HR Review: The assessment for hiring are selected after a lot of deliberation to suit the requirement. It intends to test the intellectual capabilities of the candidate. The result becomes a benchmark, used to measure the candidate with respect to the greater talent pool. This keeps the parameters technical and free from any biases. The past delivery is weighed separately and considered as an enabler, as the future behaviour may change. Hence it remains as a reference and not the prime criteria for selection. Its more of an enabler which qualifies the candidate to apply for the role.

The statements made by HR may not always be clear to the employees as they may not see the reason behind it or may lack the research to understand the bigger picture. The effort made by the HR to educate the employees in these areas would work when the interest to learn is fuelled with a vision to its advantage in future.

Ref: Ten Things Human Resources Won’t Tell You

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