Can HR departments be humane?
Words by Francis Kahihu
Among the most loved and loathed departments in most companies are the Human Resources departments. This arises from the differences in experiences that many staff have gone through in their engagements with the department. The departments are expected to manage issues related to the recruitment, performance management, welfare, motivation, discipline, transfers, and dismissals of staff among a raft of other engagements. This is really a central position in any company.
In most of these tasks, the HR departments serve as facilitators of the various processes hence stand a better position in enhancing the spirit of teamwork and ownership among the staff. They ensure that the right staff are hired at the right time for the tasks that fit their core competencies and develop mechanisms for staff professional development. This ensures that the staff are motivated to remain productive and excited at what they undertake. No staff would want to work just because they have to work. Many people work better when they can associate with the value that their job adds to society.
When HR departments play their role in the most professional manner, they are sources of great inspiration and motivation to the entire system. They enhance the ownership of the company by the employees as they feel valued and taken care of. When the department is lax in undertaking its critical expectations, there is low morale and loss of faith in the entire system.
The management of staff transfers has been one of the most controversial decisions that have made staff loath the HR departments. I have heard of cases where staff have been transferred in the most malicious manner. Quick transfers have been effected on staff who have recently or are enrolled in evening educational engagements, planning for marriage, who have reported back from maternity leave, or even staff planning for a major personal project that requires their presence. It has been disheartening to realize that these transfers have been undertaken with the full knowledge of the HR departments.
HR department staff have been known to collude with the bosses in companies to deny employees opportunities for fair hearing in cases when staff are embroiled in a misunderstanding with their superiors. The best practice in these instances is for the HR department to take a relatively neutral position in the management of junior-superior conflicts. As much as the HR manager would be either at the same level or higher with the feuding parties, it is helpful for the HR department to present itself as a neutral player in the game. HR managers have been easily manipulated by bosses who are in conflict with their juniors and served as accomplices in the unjust punishment of staff through mechanisms like abrupt transfers or issuance of warning letters.
It has been common practice to have employees who fall out of favour with their bosses to be transferred to the most remote of work stations. This in most cases has failed to consider critical concerns that the employees have. As much as the boss feels the winner in the battle, the company is usually the biggest loser. Staff discuss circumstance that lead to such decisions and realize just how selfish an employer can get. This leads to a steady decline in the level of staff productivity. Staff are human and only humane treatment works to motivate them to produce more efficiently. It has been a tragedy where HR departments have apparently not exhibited the human part in their management of people and only deal with them as staff. Staff have feelings and plans. They are not machines waiting to be pushed to whichever location you want them to go with no prior negotiation. Treat people well and they will treat the company well. Employers that practice humane HR reap more benefits than those that treat staff, just as staff and not as people.