Human Resources should know what they are talking about when it comes to managing people, but there's so much to know we may need a cheat sheet. Little things can go a long way in having a happy and productive workforce. Here are a few things every HR manager should know.
We only have so many hours in a day, and hopefully we use them productively. HR should be focused on making sure the environment is set up so that employees can manage their own time efficiently. Things like discouraging excessive meetings, allowing telecommuting and flexible schedules for employees that function well that way, and eliminating office distractions can help managers and employees maximize their time.
We measure productivity by how much we can get done in a day. In a factory environment that's pretty easy--how many widgets did we make? In a service industry, it's much more difficult to keep track of how many ideas we had. What is important are the end results--how many clients did we land, how quickly were we able to resolve that issue, what projects are on schedule? In order to help management increase their productivity, HR needs to have a solid understanding of how the business functions.
HR may be given the difficult task of addressing interpersonal conflicts or failure to comply with the dress code. A main key to managing behavior is to set and enforce consistent rules. Policies should be implemented consistently whether they involve your highest performer or a lower-performing employee. These decisions cannot be based on the rank/level of the individual or their success for the company. Further, HR administrators should be careful about establishing friendships with individuals they are responsible for counseling and disciplining because such friendships can cloud judgment or give the appearance of favoritism.
Compliance with Employment Laws and Regulations
We may not be lawyers, but we are tasked with making sure the company is in compliance with the myriad of applicable employment laws and regulations. From handling employee relations, to applying FMLA leave, to running salary audits in order to ensure there's no bias, HR needs to be up on the law.
This is the face of the company, and even though HR may at times see it as a place where candidates try to impress us, it's really a place where we should be attempting to impress the candidates. Why? The recruiter is really a spokesperson for the company. When a candidate walks in the door, their impression of the company is deeply influenced by what we do. We should strive to be diligent and honest in our recruiting. Always seek to find people to hire, instead of seeking to eliminate candidates.
Unfortunately, this is the flip side of hiring. HR should be involved in every termination. We need to make sure all termination practices are consistent and follow best practices. We coach managers on how to deliver the news, and we may need to coach the terminated employee on applying for continued health insurance coverage if applicable, filing for unemployment insurance benefits and sometimes even in finding a new job.
Firing is awful, but when it has to be done, HR should make sure the process is professional and straightforward.
We need to think ahead. A fully staffed company today may not be fully staffed tomorrow. We need to constantly be thinking, "What will happen if this manager leaves," or "what will happen if we land that new contract." How can we ensure that our people are prepared to handle the needs of the company tomorrow? We need to make sure formal and informal mentoring happens. We need to make sure people are given growth opportunities. Sometimes management balks at development programs or succession planning because they are trying to get the work done today, but when we don’t think ahead, we may not be able to get the work done tomorrow.