Deep Dive with HR by Josh Opperman
What is the role of HR when it comes to working with employees?
Employees often think of HR as being the enforcer in a company and assume that any interaction with HR is a negative one. That assumption is not an accurate picture of what HR does on a regular basis. I like to think of HR as like a high school guidance counselor. Certainly, we get involved sometimes when someone is in trouble, but we are also the primary stewards of the people at an organization. Everything from the culture of the company to the type of benefits employees receive are carefully monitored and influenced by HR.
It is certainly understandable why employees sometimes have a negative perception of the HR role. We are tasked with ensuring that the company is complying with the law in a number of ways related to employing people, and sometimes that means we have to have difficult conversations with employees. While that is nobody’s favorite part of the job, it serves some valuable purposes.
One situation that sometimes makes employees feel as though HR is out to get them is the harassment investigation. In order to properly understand the harassment investigation, and HR’s role in it, it is helpful to understand why we investigate harassment claims in the first place. First and foremost, every workplace operates more smoothly when employees feel comfortable coming to work. Harassment in the workplace can easily destroy that feeling and make a workplace into somewhere employees dread being. Because of this, it is vitally important that HR eliminate harassment in the workplace in every instance possible.
It is important to understand that HR’s goal in an investigation is to eliminate harassment, not to take a side or punish anyone for wrongdoing. Certainly, there are instances where termination of the harasser’s employment is warranted, but that is not the only possible outcome. HR’s role in the investigation is to find out the truth of what happened, resolve the situation, prevent future harassment, and protect employees from retaliation.
Sometimes employees get the impression that HR is only out to protect the company in these investigations. There are some reasons it may look that way, but even though protecting the company is part of HR’s role, it is far from all of it. It is true that the legal environment has forced employers to take certain protective actions in these situations, but the cases that control the law in these situations really only force employers to take appropriate and timely action, which is better for employees and employers.
Preserving the harmony of the workplace is an important part of what HR does every day, and employees should feel comfortable working with HR to improve conditions at work. Whether we are investigating workplace harassment or planning the next company picnic, HR is there for the employee, and we want work to be better for everyone.
Josh has a passion for human resources and doing what is right for employees. He is a Board Member and contributor to Central Iowa Society of Human Resource Mangers and is a Business Partner at Aureon. You may contact Josh at email@example.com.