[US] What doing away with your HR department tells employees

[US] What doing away with your HR department tells employees
09 Jun 2021

Human resources used to have something of a negative reputation with employees. In the past, they have been perceived as unapproachable and only present for the benefit of the employer. However, HR has since worked hard to make changes for the better by rebranding to People and Culture, with an emphasis on cultural initiatives and employee engagement and a more personal experience. 

Now, as the popularity of a self-service approach using apps and online tools has presented a new threat, Forbes makes the case against eliminating your HR department.

Lifehack author, Alena Cheina, defines employee engagement as, “not just about building relationships but how employers manage people, the state of the workplace, and the type of people being hired.” Eliminating HR might appear functional and cost-saving in the short term but the culture will inevitably suffer and the employee experience will be irreparably damaged. 

Steffen Maier - the co-founder of Impraise - said, “the employee experience is not something that you design once and you’re done with it.” Rather, it is an ongoing experience demanding a dedicated and trusted professional to continue nurturing it.

When employees see their HR department being eliminated in favour of making a profit, they question not only the company’s priorities but their own position too. Employment attorney and SPHR-certified HR consultant, Lori Rassas, said, eliminating the HR department “sends a message to employees that it’s concerned only about its legal liability and unconcerned about other workplace issues that may not pose a legal risk, but have a significant impact on the day-to-day working lives of its workplace.”

Forbes explores 3 good reasons for companies to rethink eliminating their HR department:

People-First Culture without The People Department

It sends a contradictory message when a company claiming to be people-centred chooses to eliminate its People and Culture department for the sake of profit. Especially since workplace culture is a top strategic priority. There has been a 105 per cent surge in workplace culture jobs, since 2018, as employers realise the true extent of the value they bring to the company. 

The FORTUNE 500 Best Companies to Work For list demonstrated that those who invest in their culture substantially outperform the market overall. Gary Vaynerchuk - owner and CEO of VaynerMedia - said the Chief Heart Officer position at VaynerMedia is the second-most important position at his company after the CEO.

Lori Rassas cautions that, when a company eliminates its People and Culture function, workplace issues and situations that would previously have been brought to their attention suddenly disappear. She explains, “instead, an individual who might’ve historically spoken with the Director of People about a claim of bullying, sexual harassment, discriminatory treatment or any other type of workplace complaint, will now have to raise it with a manager or leader who’s less likely to be equipped to handle the situation.” 

As a consequence, there is no standard for handling these types of complaints opening up the potential to create an entirely new set of legal issues. Despite what many employers optimistically believe, no company is exempt from workplace issues especially high-growth ones.

Daivat Dholakia - director of operations at Force by Mojio - said a harmful result of getting rid of HR departments is that it shifts far more commitment and responsibility onto managers and executives. He continued, “without the infrastructure to properly accommodate and work with current employees, it’s inevitable that people will leave.” All of the recruiters in the world can’t make up for that.”

If HR is disposable then so too are employees

HR is an underrated department that tirelessly works to build and maintain a healthy and safe company culture. Members of the HR department are the ones who:

* coach leaders through difficult conversations

* keeps a finger on the pulse of company culture

* consistently checks in and gathers feedback from employees

* creates and communicates policy changes

* handles internal conflicts

* acts as a sounding board for ideas

* provides a safe place for employees

* translates company policies and processes when there’s a grey area, and so much more.

When employees feel unsafe or uncomfortable going to their manager, or worse, their manager is the problem, employees turn to HR. Without HR, employees will lack an invaluable outlet for stress and concerns and a source of support. Marc Andreessen - notable venture capitalist - said, “most managers are dangerously amateur at doing actual HR. Without smart, effective HR, terrible managerial and employee behaviour leads to a toxic culture that catalyses into a catastrophic ethical - and legal - crisis.” 

The reality is managers and HR professionals do not share the same goals or priorities. Managers are simply unable to give their full attention to the needs of employees, asking them to take on HR responsibilities and nurture the company culture on top of their own department tasks is unrealistic. As a result, a sterile culture evolves with employees believing nobody is advocating for or genuinely caring about them. Which, in turn, leads to increased employee churn.

An eight-year-long study from the Stanford Project on Emerging Companies found that companies that invested in HR expertise were the least likely to fail and the fastest to go public. 

According to Marc Andreessen, a refusal to take HR seriously is one of the top 10 ways to damage a fast-growing startup. He said, “this isn’t specific to just tech-heavy environments, it’s prevalent in any highly creative, highly skilled workplace.” Companies demonstrating that their HR department is disposable show employees that they could be disposable as well.

Tech cannot provide the experience that a dedicated HR professional can

When it comes to creating and nurturing a workplace culture, tech cannot compare to what a dedicated HR professional can offer. Cultivating a strong employee experience requires a hands-on approach that cannot be effectively achieved with technology alone. HR tech is supposed to enhance the employee experience, not replace it. HR actively integrates and reinforces core values, processes and policies while holding to account people who violate or neglect them - especially those in leadership positions.

As compliance is one of HR’s main focuses, the lack of an HR department undoubtedly increases a company’s exposure to risk unless companies can afford to have an employment attorney on retainer for the day-to-day issues that arise. Compliance isn’t a once-and-done thing but an ongoing process requiring up to date awareness of employment laws and legislation, revisiting and updating policies, identifying potential gaps and risks and rolling out changes with clear communication and training.

Relying solely on HR tech or having leadership members take on HR responsibilities increases the rate of errors and allows them to go undetected for longer periods of time - especially as the company grows - because there isn’t a dedicated professional to supervise. And ultimately, HR can understand and manage the grey areas technology cannot. Because one thing is certain, grey areas and unique challenges will continue to arise around policies and processes.



Source: Forbes

(Links and quotes via original reporting)

Human resources used to have something of a negative reputation with employees. In the past, they have been perceived as unapproachable and only present for the benefit of the employer. However, HR has since worked hard to make changes for the better by rebranding to People and Culture, with an emphasis on cultural initiatives and employee engagement and a more personal experience. 

Now, as the popularity of a self-service approach using apps and online tools has presented a new threat, Forbes makes the case against eliminating your HR department.

Lifehack author, Alena Cheina, defines employee engagement as, “not just about building relationships but how employers manage people, the state of the workplace, and the type of people being hired.” Eliminating HR might appear functional and cost-saving in the short term but the culture will inevitably suffer and the employee experience will be irreparably damaged. 

Steffen Maier - the co-founder of Impraise - said, “the employee experience is not something that you design once and you’re done with it.” Rather, it is an ongoing experience demanding a dedicated and trusted professional to continue nurturing it.

When employees see their HR department being eliminated in favour of making a profit, they question not only the company’s priorities but their own position too. Employment attorney and SPHR-certified HR consultant, Lori Rassas, said, eliminating the HR department “sends a message to employees that it’s concerned only about its legal liability and unconcerned about other workplace issues that may not pose a legal risk, but have a significant impact on the day-to-day working lives of its workplace.”

Forbes explores 3 good reasons for companies to rethink eliminating their HR department:

People-First Culture without The People Department

It sends a contradictory message when a company claiming to be people-centred chooses to eliminate its People and Culture department for the sake of profit. Especially since workplace culture is a top strategic priority. There has been a 105 per cent surge in workplace culture jobs, since 2018, as employers realise the true extent of the value they bring to the company. 

The FORTUNE 500 Best Companies to Work For list demonstrated that those who invest in their culture substantially outperform the market overall. Gary Vaynerchuk - owner and CEO of VaynerMedia - said the Chief Heart Officer position at VaynerMedia is the second-most important position at his company after the CEO.

Lori Rassas cautions that, when a company eliminates its People and Culture function, workplace issues and situations that would previously have been brought to their attention suddenly disappear. She explains, “instead, an individual who might’ve historically spoken with the Director of People about a claim of bullying, sexual harassment, discriminatory treatment or any other type of workplace complaint, will now have to raise it with a manager or leader who’s less likely to be equipped to handle the situation.” 

As a consequence, there is no standard for handling these types of complaints opening up the potential to create an entirely new set of legal issues. Despite what many employers optimistically believe, no company is exempt from workplace issues especially high-growth ones.

Daivat Dholakia - director of operations at Force by Mojio - said a harmful result of getting rid of HR departments is that it shifts far more commitment and responsibility onto managers and executives. He continued, “without the infrastructure to properly accommodate and work with current employees, it’s inevitable that people will leave.” All of the recruiters in the world can’t make up for that.”

If HR is disposable then so too are employees

HR is an underrated department that tirelessly works to build and maintain a healthy and safe company culture. Members of the HR department are the ones who:

* coach leaders through difficult conversations

* keeps a finger on the pulse of company culture

* consistently checks in and gathers feedback from employees

* creates and communicates policy changes

* handles internal conflicts

* acts as a sounding board for ideas

* provides a safe place for employees

* translates company policies and processes when there’s a grey area, and so much more.

When employees feel unsafe or uncomfortable going to their manager, or worse, their manager is the problem, employees turn to HR. Without HR, employees will lack an invaluable outlet for stress and concerns and a source of support. Marc Andreessen - notable venture capitalist - said, “most managers are dangerously amateur at doing actual HR. Without smart, effective HR, terrible managerial and employee behaviour leads to a toxic culture that catalyses into a catastrophic ethical - and legal - crisis.” 

The reality is managers and HR professionals do not share the same goals or priorities. Managers are simply unable to give their full attention to the needs of employees, asking them to take on HR responsibilities and nurture the company culture on top of their own department tasks is unrealistic. As a result, a sterile culture evolves with employees believing nobody is advocating for or genuinely caring about them. Which, in turn, leads to increased employee churn.

An eight-year-long study from the Stanford Project on Emerging Companies found that companies that invested in HR expertise were the least likely to fail and the fastest to go public. 

According to Marc Andreessen, a refusal to take HR seriously is one of the top 10 ways to damage a fast-growing startup. He said, “this isn’t specific to just tech-heavy environments, it’s prevalent in any highly creative, highly skilled workplace.” Companies demonstrating that their HR department is disposable show employees that they could be disposable as well.

Tech cannot provide the experience that a dedicated HR professional can

When it comes to creating and nurturing a workplace culture, tech cannot compare to what a dedicated HR professional can offer. Cultivating a strong employee experience requires a hands-on approach that cannot be effectively achieved with technology alone. HR tech is supposed to enhance the employee experience, not replace it. HR actively integrates and reinforces core values, processes and policies while holding to account people who violate or neglect them - especially those in leadership positions.

As compliance is one of HR’s main focuses, the lack of an HR department undoubtedly increases a company’s exposure to risk unless companies can afford to have an employment attorney on retainer for the day-to-day issues that arise. Compliance isn’t a once-and-done thing but an ongoing process requiring up to date awareness of employment laws and legislation, revisiting and updating policies, identifying potential gaps and risks and rolling out changes with clear communication and training.

Relying solely on HR tech or having leadership members take on HR responsibilities increases the rate of errors and allows them to go undetected for longer periods of time - especially as the company grows - because there isn’t a dedicated professional to supervise. And ultimately, HR can understand and manage the grey areas technology cannot. Because one thing is certain, grey areas and unique challenges will continue to arise around policies and processes.



Source: Forbes

(Links and quotes via original reporting)

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