Monday, August 15, 2022

HR may not be employees’ “friend,” but it’s also not their enemy

As the former Microsoft VP of HR I can assure you that HR is not your friend.

That headline from a BusinessInsider article written by Chris Williams, Microsoft's former head of HR from 1997 thru 2000, caught my eye. 

He writes: "Do not see your team's HR representative as a friend. … HR is not your friend. … [T]hey are not paid to be the employee's ally."

On the one hand, Williams is correct. HR is not an employee's friend. But by framing the issue as such, he is suggesting that HR is an employee's enemy. That distinction is damaging. HR is neither friend nor foe of employees. It's their partner. If this is not how HR is working within your company, you need to reexamine why you have HR in the first place.

HR’s job is to protect the company, but not at all costs. Protecting the company also means holding all employees accountable — all the way up to the C-suite — for illegal and otherwise inappropriate misconduct. 

Indeed, protecting the company doesn't mean always mean siding with the company. Sometimes, for example, protecting the company means protecting an employee who is being discriminated against, harassed, or otherwise mistreated. If HR is respected within an organization, then the C-suite should listen to HR's opinion about what is, and is not, out of bounds. If HR is not respected, why have it in the first place. Moreover, if the C-suite ignores HR on issues that fall within its sphere of influence, that an organizational failure, not an HR failure. 

Or, look it at this way. If employees cannot rely on HR to help them with their issues, employees will go outside of the company for help. Do you want your employees raising their initial concerns with your HR department or a lawyer? I know my answer and what yours should be each and every time.