What Makes a Great HR Department?

Michael Meere
Director of HR
College for Adult Learning
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The human resources department has myriad different functions that both the company and its employees need. The human capital of the company is one of its prime investments, so they have to be cared for in a way that allows them to be productive and to flourish as individuals. It’s the HR department’s job to ensure that the employees are properly compensated and are fairly treated while they’re part of the company. In addition to this, HR also evaluates the employees based on their performance to ensure that they’re still on par with the company’s expectations. Lastly, when employees are performing well, the HR department also provides them with opportunities to branch out and step up in the corporate ladder.

Though discreet, the HR department has numerous functions that are crucial to the development of a company. How well is your HR department holding up with the demands of both the company and its employees? Would you say that your HR department is an effective branch of your company? If you’re wondering what you can do to improve the performance of your HR department, here are some things you can start with:

A Great HR Department is Fair

The HR department takes no sides. Even if they are employed by a company, this doesn’t mean that they should always give the company the benefit of the doubt. If anything, the HR department is the employee’s fighting chance for fairness in the workplace. Though the HR department can’t always guarantee that an employee will get the best end of a bargain when it comes to negotiations with the company, they can at least ensure that the employee won’t be cheated. The people of HR are also instrumental in settling conflicts between employees, providing an objective view of events and the ability to make a fair decision to end a disagreement. In addition, the HR department should be able to objectively look at a situation through numbers, metrics and quantitative data. As much as possible, there’s no subjectivity when it comes to making decisions about the fate of an employee.

A Great HR Department is an Applicant’s First Impression

Whenever a potential employee walks in through the door bearing his or her resume, the HR department should be welcoming and accommodating. They are, after all, the first people applicants would come into contact with. The HR department should be able to address the concerns of an applicant in line with the company’s needs and beliefs. As the company’s representative to the pool of potential workforce personnel, it’s the HR department’s job to present the face of the company in a way that would make people want to work in their company.

employee handbook

A Great HR Department Has Readily Available Information

When a person is hired to work for a company, they have very little information about what the company expects from them. It’s the HR’s job to be able to supply this information in order to address the basics of decorum and performance. The HR department should have a manual that new hires will easily be able to understand. This includes the specifics of replying to emails, attendance, dress code, communication etiquette and more. By having this information written and easily accessible, the HR department ensures that everyone is aware of how they should behave in the office.

It is also HR's job to help employees with other formalities and benefits that may come up. For example, if a woman is pregnant, HR should be able to help her fill out the maternity leave paperwork. Some bigger companies have school reimbursement programs that will pay for their employees to take college classes, provided the employee receives a passing grade. HR should know the ins and outs of these and other perks that employees can benefit from. 

A Great HR Department Considers Culture Fit

Not only is culture fit a benefit for the employee, but the company will also find it easier to have employees who have the same basic beliefs. Each company has its own unique culture built on what they believe would make the company more productive. It’s important that the people who work within the company also have the same beliefs. For instance, some companies are very formal and have a very strict dress code. So it’s best to hire only those who are comfortable with this setting. On the other hand, there are also companies who have a more fun and relaxed image. In these cases, people who take themselves too seriously may not fit in with that culture.

A Great HR Department is Up to Date on Technology

Companies are always striving to innovate the way they do business. The HR department shouldn't be left behind in this regard. Technology is important for the most basic functions like communication and accessibility. Just imagine if your HR department were still dependent on a database locked away in a file cabinet. No amount of organization skills could match the speed of an online internal database!

Technology shouldn't just be limited to how the HR department uses it within the company. When reaching out to find candidates for jobs, it's also important to have access to the latest databases. There are tons of different accounts that can be set up by a company in order to encourage people to send their applications online. In addition, companies can also make use of social media sites like LinkedIn to find potential candidates. Of course, the members of the HR department should also be capable of effectively using technology to their advantage.

Dealing with technology

A Great HR Department is Consistent

In line with being fair, the HR department should also be able to implement policies and procedures consistently. No one within the company should be exempt from disciplinary action, especially when it comes to grave misconduct like destruction of property or sexual harassment. If the HR department chooses to play favorites, it makes everyone in the company view them as a department that doesn’t enforce fairness. The HR department should be able to distance themselves from prejudice within the company in order to set up rules and regulations that everyone within the company can benefit from.

A Great HR Department Understands the Motivation of Employees

Generally, people would think that money is the prime motivation for employees. But this is hardly ever the only thing they consider. In fact, non-financial benefits can also greatly motivate employees to do better. For instance, having rewards programs, free training sessions and even a designated parking space may motivate some employees to do better. Others are motivated by health insurance benefits that they can share with their family members. Whatever their motivations may be, it’s the HR department’s responsibility to use these motivations to drive the employees to become better at what they do.

About Michael Meere

Michael Meere is Director and Senior Lecturer at The College for Adult Learning in Australia.
 
Human Resource Management: Senior Management and CEO responsibility for HRM within both not-for-profit and commercial organisations. Lecturer: MBA Diploma HRM

Project Management: Both internal and external projects - from conception to implementation in both not-for-profit organisations and commercial enterprises. Lecturer: Diploma PM

Entrepreneurship: As General Manager participated in the commercialisation of an Australian medical innovation that is now the benchmark product in its category worldwide.

Management: CEO National Industry Association. Vice President of a leading Australia not for profit association

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