Dear HR Professional,

How many times has someone appeared in your doorway about to faint? "I was told to come to HR by my Supervisor, am I fired?" You reply with a smile, "Relax, you just forgot a signature on a benefit enrollment form, no biggie, just sign here and you can go back to work" right?

How many times has this happened and it was simply for a signature on a form, to provide an update on FMLA hours used or to ask for documentation?

It should be no secret to anyone who has worked in HR for a month that it has a stigma amongst employees of all levels as the place for time out, the naughty corner, a dungeon of doom, kiss of death - a most horrid place you want to stay away from like the plague, the kind some people never return to their work area from.

My last employer had white boxes they would pack employee personal effects in - in front of staff trying to work, while employees were undergoing termination in HR. The joke was, "I got called to HR, if you see a white box you know I'm not coming back".

In addition to losing an employee on those days, one in which a significant investment in training, coaching and mentoring had been made and would be costly to replace, productivity and morale would be shot, psyches wounded, employee satisfaction eroded.. the list went on and on until it got down to the bottom line..

Yet, unless all those peeps that still like to keep me apprised of the drama have forgotten to mention it, in spite of a C-Level overload of brain power in the organization.. they have yet to learn why attrition is high, morale is low and if other jobs were available people would bail like on the last voyage of the Titanic.

It doesn't have to be that way. The accountability of how human resources is perceived is self-fulfilled prophecy. Here are my 10 best practices to ensure being called to your HR department is not viewed as the kiss of death.

  1. Don't call people to HR without letting them know why.... Hello.
  2. Being a role model for respect in the workplace and insisting that the corporate culture adapt it as an imperative is doing the right thing... from the C-Suite down, of course.
  3. Internal marketing for HR is as important a function as any in the long list of what we do.
  4. Ensuring supervisory personnel (through C Level - of course) receive initial and ongoing training on how to deal effectively with employee relations issues is one of the best "best practices" in HR I can think of.
  5. We should never forget that while confidential knowledge is shared on a need to know basis (hopefully) an HR communication vacuum is hazardous in an organization.
  6. If you ask for feedback (like e-sat surveys and even suggestion boxes) be prepared to deliver the results along with recommendations for improvement to the big guns.. and stand your ground firm that if they aren't going to be prepared to act upon results they should skip asking for opinions.
  7. During new hire orientation let employees know the best way to communicate with HR and what your department's strategy is to communicate with staff.
  8. Create a service level agreement for HR, track, analyze and report quarterly how you're doing. You'll find "areas of opportunity" for yourself *gasp* and put your department up for the same scrutiny you are always subjecting others too.
  9. Be there. Be available. Be visible. You don't have to take the door off the hinge but you should have posted open door hours. Hiding behind closed door gives the perception you are not available, you are getting ready to fire someone or you are plotting how to cut benefits..
  10. Get out from behind your desk and into the work area. Interview random employees about their jobs. Compare your notes to their job descriptions and their last performance evaluations. If the math doesn't add up it's a predictor their resumes are posted all over Internet job boards.

I have a lot of HR friends with tons of great experience. So chime in please, can you add a step to avoid running an HR dungeon of doom?


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