The workplace is full of complexity, and many of those complexities are managed by the Human Resources Department. Sometimes the HR Department is a team of people with deep expertise, but often it’s one person who wears many hats in the organization and has no formal HR training. If your HR Department looks more like the latter, and you could use a little help keeping it all together, here are three practices to follow:
Inventory who is doing what
Because HR covers so many different tasks, those tasks are often assigned to different people in the organization. It’s common for owners, managers, and operations personnel to have a hand in HR, whether or not the organization has a dedicated HR person. But with HR responsibilities spread out, it may not be clear who’s doing what, and that uncertainty can add to the stress felt by whoever oversees the organization’s HR. Important HR functions risk being neglected and problems may go unnoticed or unresolved.
In order to manage your HR, you need to identify what’s currently being done and who’s doing it. For example, who ensures that your policies and practices meet legal requirements? Who makes internal decisions about pay, benefits, and recruitment? Where do employees go to resolve conflicts or report harassment? Who conducts terminations? Who writes policies? Where do the people doing HR go if they have questions or concerns?
It’s not a problem if your HR responsibilities are spread out among multiple people. In fact, we recommend it (more on that below). But with multiple people involved, it’s essential to verify that everything that needs to be done is being done. Once you have a clear picture of your HR functions, you’re in a better position to assess whether those functions are being done well.
Require your managers to handle more HR issues
There’s no way that HR can be involved in every employee relations issue, especially on those days when you’re putting out fires. When HR practitioners spend most of their time responding to problems, they’re not able to invest their time and energy in proactive HR solutions. When business owners get bogged down addressing employee issues, they’re not able to devote as much time to growing the business. Both in-house HR professionals and business owners can and should delegate some HR responsibilities to management.
Managers should feel comfortable giving feedback, offering praise, providing direction, disciplining poor performers, addressing certain behavioral problems, and resolving conflicts. Not every employee issue needs to be escalated up the chain of command or be placed on the desk of the HR department. If managers – who are usually closer to the situation and better equipped to respond to it quickly and effectively – can handle the smaller, more frequent employee issues that arise, then owners and dedicated HR staff will have more time to tackle larger projects and more bandwidth to respond appropriately to emergencies. If managers don’t have the knowledge and skills to take on certain HR responsibilities, consider additional training.
Talk to others doing HR
Sometimes it feels good to talk to people who can relate to what you’re going through. It can be lonely being a business owner or solo HR practitioner. There may not be someone else in the workplace who fully understands what you’re experiencing, and even if there are people who would understand, you may not be able to open up to them because so many matters are confidential or sensitive. It can also feel like your situation is so unique that no one could possibly understand.
If you know other organizational leaders in your area or have access to online networks of fellow HR professionals, you’ll likely find value in striking up a conversation. One of the best things about the world of HR is that the people who practice it are eager to listen and happy to share what worked or didn’t work for them. If nothing else, you’ll see that you’re not alone and that your HR issues aren’t really that unique. That alone can bring peace of mind and give you the confidence to tackle each new day’s HR responsibilities.