User-friendly HR

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

As February commences the bombardment of reminders to focus on love is upon us. Stores are adorned with Valentine’s merchandise although it scarcely seems that holiday decorations have been taken down.

As HR professionals it should be easy to understand being enamoured with love, because we want people to love what they do.  In our work and in educating others about our profession we spend a great deal of time and energy discussing how to use the various strategies at our disposal to make work more meaningful, to create an engaged workforce and to ensure that there is an alignment between what employees do and what organizations want to achieve. It all seems so straight forward. Develop and then implement the right systems and employees will love to work. However, research shows that people continue to be distressed and are facing numerous mental health issues; think about Bell’s Let’s Talk Day that was a significant national campaign at the end of January. As such, it is necessary to address the elephant in the room; what if, despite our best efforts, employees don’t love the work they do and that the pressures and expectations are creating ever increasing problems at both micro and macro levels?

In lieu of looking at this as a negative, there is an amazing opportunity to turn this issue around and examine the influence that HR has to reinforce correct behaviors that impact an organization’s culture and develop workplace processes to address these concerns. For example, what could be altered in recruitment and selection practices to lessen distress, both for those inside our companies and for external candidates? If the process could be streamlined and more transparent, would this not decrease the anxiety for all involved?  

I invite you to ask students or your workplace colleagues to brainstorm ideas of how other HR processes (training and development, succession planning, health and safety, reward and recognition, labour relations, etc.) could be enhanced with the aim to decrease the complexity and mystery, and therefore related stressors, associated with these important workplace elements. In other words, we should view our work through the employees’ eyes and perspectives so that HR is easy to understand and simple to use. This has lately been referred to as approaching HR work as employee centric.

In lieu of thinking of this as a cerebral exercise we must begin by acknowledging that the role of HR professionals is not simply to implement rote activities based upon well defined steps. We need to stop looking at HR as a process driven function and instead look at how our employees actually experience the HR that we create. How can we practice HR in a way that others view as accessible, simple to implement and valuable? 

What I am proposing will take courage, but only by openly declaring that things need to change can action be taken to address issues and remedy the situation. It is incumbent upon current and future HR professionals to be bold and vulnerable enough to have these conversations, change the way we look at our work and then move toward finding innovative solutions. In doing so we can turn HR on its head and find the path forward to bring joy and fulfillment to the workplace, thus ensuring that both employees and employers experience success.

Melanie Peacock PhD, MBA, CPHR, SHRM-SCP

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