When it comes to managing employee issues, the HR department can be a reliable friend.
The human resources (HR) department is an essential part of all organizations, and its scope of work is not simply limited to managing administrative functions. It also works actively to safeguard the interest of employees and create a positive work environment for them. It serves as a link between employer expectations and employee needs so that a fine balance is maintained.
For new employees, the HR department is their first point of contact. It onboards new hires, introduces them to their team, and assists with initial documentation and paperwork. It also manages ad hoc employee requests, such as applying for a long leave of absence. Further, the HR department trains employees on company policies to make them aware of the benefits available for them and the type of behavior expected at the workplace.
In this article, we’ve outlined the various ways in which the HR department helps employees. We’ve also listed the best practices that employees should follow while contacting the HR team.
What is the HR department?
The HR department, also known as the HR office, is a business unit that oversees employment-related functions, such as recruitment, payroll, compensation management, onboarding, performance management, and exit. The HR office helps businesses ensure compliance with the employment laws and regulations they are required to follow. Some of these are Equal Employment Opportunity Act, Whistleblower Protection Act, Labor Law, and Family and Medical Leave Act.
Why is the HR department more important than ever before?
With time, HR managers have become strategic partners in building a productive workforce and lowering the employee attrition rate. In 2019, about 90% of HR managers had a strong voice in their company’s strategic decision making, up from the 80% recorded in 2018.
As a result of this growing merit, the HR department has become a strong bearer of employee interests. HR managers now have a higher say in molding company policies in favor of employee welfare.
What does the HR department do for employees?
While the HR office chiefly manages functions such as recruiting and payroll, it’s also responsible for creating a positive work environment and helping employees when needed.
In this section, we’ve listed six ways in which the HR department assists employees.
- Creates a positive work environment
- Drafts and revises employment policies
- Conducts induction sessions
- Organizes learning and development training programs
- Handles requests outside managers’ capacity
- Assists employees during personal emergencies
1. Creates a positive work environment
One of the main roles of the HR team is to make the workplace optimal for employee productivity. A positive work environment gives employees the confidence to speak up about issues that are upsetting them. Listed below are the three primary ways through which the HR department creates a positive workplace culture.
Maintains organization-wide diversity: Modern workplaces have employees of different religions, races, physical abilities, and genders working together. In such setups, fair and equal treatment of all employees is not only essential but also a legal obligation for companies. The HR department designs sensitization programs, creates codes of conduct, moderates employee-employer dialogs, and monitors employee data (projects, promotions, etc.) to ensure that all employees are treated equally.
Protects whistleblowers: Workplace misconduct and frauds often go unreported because victims or complainants feel intimidated or fear retaliation. In these cases, the HR department serves as a reliable confidant. Employees can report their issues without disclosing their identity. They are, thus, protected from the risk of losing their job or being victimized for making any disclosures.
Conducts employee surveys: Employee surveys let HR managers assess employee satisfaction levels and expectations. These surveys help the HR department gather insights about things that matter to employees—pain points, expectations, and areas of improvement. They also help managers measure the performance of existing processes and gauge the impact of new policies.
2. Drafts and revises employment policies
Another important role of the HR office is framing employee-related policies. HR policies do more than just help businesses comply with federal employment and labor laws. They also provide a framework for implementing employment-related processes, such as how to manage workplace harassment. The guidelines for forming these policies are set by law, upper management, and the HR team.
Following are the key employment policies that fall under the purview of the HR office:
- Anti-harassment policy
- Anti-discrimination policy
- Time-off policy
- Benefits policy
- Office timings policy
- Employee pay policy
- Employee conduct policy
- Employee safety and health policy
The HR office also revises these policies based on regulatory updates. For instance, if the Department of Labor changes the number of annual leaves for employees, the HR department accordingly updates policies to ensure compliance.
3. Conducts induction sessions
A well-designed orientation program makes new employees feel welcome. The HR department organizes and conducts these induction sessions. It informs new hires about their organization’s values and work culture. It also assists with onboarding activities, such as documentation, workstation setup, and team introduction.
4. Organizes learning and development training programs
Based on business requirements, employees may be asked to upskill or reskill so that they can fulfill their roles more efficiently. The HR department organizes learning and development programs to help employees acquire new skills and hone existing ones. These programs—which could be mandatory or optional—not only equip employees with the knowledge required to perform and progress in their roles but also further their individual professional growth.
5. Handles requests outside managers’ capacity
There are several activities in which managers can’t directly assist their team members, and such requests have to be routed through the HR office. For instance, an employee who wants to apply for tuition reimbursement for pursuing higher education will have to directly contact the HR department.
The HR office addresses such concerns and suggests a course of action. For instance, in the aforementioned case, it can communicate the concerned employee’s request to management, seek approval, and then advise the employee on the process to be followed and documentation needed.
6. Assists employees during personal emergencies
At times employees have to deal with personal emergencies. They could be facing a medical or family urgency that requires an immediate or planned leave of absence, which might even have to be extended.
During personal emergencies, the HR office is the right contact point and is trained to respond to such employee requests. It holds discussions with employees’ reporting managers to seek approval. Based on the severity of the situation, it even designs flexible return-to-work plans.
Next steps: Best practices for approaching the HR department
Now that we’ve understood how the HR team helps employees, let’s take a look at the best practices that employees should follow while approaching the HR department.
- When in doubt, employees should refer to the HR policy: If a concern lies outside the scope of HR duties, the HR department will deny direct intervention. For instance, if compensation management is not handled by the HR department, it will be unable to assist. Therefore, it’s important to ascertain the HR department’s scope of work before reaching out for help, and a good way of doing this is referring to HR policies.
- Employees should be ready if a decision isn’t in their favor: The HR department’s interests are primarily aligned with those of the employer. For instance, if an employee’s salary revision is likely to hurt profitability, HR managers will not process the request. Thus, it’s important to understand that HR interactions will not always result in favorable outcomes for employees.
- For critical issues, employees MUST contact the HR department: Critical issues such as harassment and gender or racial discrimination must be immediately reported to the HR department. Employees should document all the details, collect proof and witnesses, and then approach the HR team directly.
If you feel that we’ve missed out on a best practice that should have been included in this list, let us know in the comments section below. Also, if you are looking for an HR solution for your business, you can visit our HR software catalog.
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