Currently, in many business environments, the focus has shifted from the people on staff to the policies and rules that drive the organization. More and more, HR is becoming a field that seems to be solely focused on rules, laws, and policies, and not on the people it is intended to serve. It has always been a heavily regulated industry, and for good reason; but there is still an argument to be made for the value of the people: the employees, past, present, and future, who make up your organization.

As it is, HR should focus more on the people it serves, and on gaining their trust and empathizing with them, and less on policies. Over time, the prevalence of policies and controls has resulted from the manifestation of fear. Every rule and policy was made for a reason. Something happened somewhere, someone did something that led to that regulation being made. But the more you trust the people in your organization, the fewer policies you’ll need. We need to get back to a place of greater trust and fewer faceless policies. When you build an environment of trust, understanding, and camaraderie, you are more likely to have honest employees, employees who’ll keep the best interests of the organization in mind, and not just their own.

Empathy

So much of HR training focuses on the laws and policies we are to follow but gives us little insight on how to actually interact with people, how to communicate, and how to show them empathy. People are not numbers that can be plugged into an algorithm that will just turn out an answer to what we should do. Every single person is an individual who will deal with a given situation in a unique way. Where is the training for that? Not to say there isn’t any, it is just significantly less prevalent.

While laws and policies are important, they are not the be-all and end-all. Being able to show empathy and customize your approach to an individual is an important ability for HR people to have. It is essential to listen to your employee’s issue, don’t just pass him or her off because it isn’t your department’s responsibility. To some degree, for someone in HR, any issue that any human in your organization is having can be your responsibility.

Learning to Trust Again

The laws and policies that HR must adhere to likely won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. And odds are that you don’t have a lot of extra time on your hands to start fighting the legislation. That’s okay. What you do have is the ability to build an environment in your organization in which your employees feel that they can be trusted. When they feel that they can be trusted, they will in turn be more trustworthy.

An employee who is both trusted and trustworthy will adhere to policies while still letting you know when things come up that your department can help them with. It is a cycle. If you empower your employees through trust and understanding, they will be more likely to trust and understand you in return, and their employer as a whole.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.

6 Comments

  • Avatar Mary L. says:

    Very often HR managers face a problem of playing a “building trusting relationships” game without having any real trust in their staff. Putting the Human in Human Resources is a way out. For me, it means doing what your employees need in every specific situation, and not what should be done by a typical HR under typical conditions.

  • Avatar Lynda K. says:

    How can you build trusting relationships if you see that some people on your team aren’t ready to be open?

  • Avatar Karen M. says:

    Some employees are not ready to be open because it is not something they need from their job. They come to their workplace just to earn a living. The others seek communication, so they are the ones who get attention from an HR expert. All the rest should be left as they are.

  • Avatar Scott M. says:

    There really are people who hate it when others don’t mind their own business. I have such a person on my team, and what is even worse, I suspect this person is cheating. I want to talk to him, but I am really afraid he will take offense at my effort. What should I do?

  • Avatar Lauren P. says:

    A single instance of help and support from an HR manager can become the cornerstone of a healthy relationship between the employees. Once a person experiences the help of a manager in a really difficult situation, he or she develops sincere respect for the manager and will be ready to respond to any of HR’s initiatives in the future.

  • Avatar Lori says:

    It is so hard to individualize when you have set policies and procedures and are supposed to treat everyone equal.
    HR is supposed to be the “good guy” but how can we be when we are enforcers?

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