A question I have been asked on a number of occasions during my career in HR is “whose side are you on?” The implication being that HR, by the nature of its function, must be biased towards supporting the employer or employee during its many day to day transactions and activities.
It’s not only disgruntled employees who have asked this question either. Friends and family members have been fascinated to understand how HR strikes the balance. “So, you’re employed by the organisation… but you’re there to look after the needs of its people. How does that work?”
A natural bias?
To me, it is a surprising question, because I have never felt conflicted loyalties when it comes to my role. It is true, of course, that as HR practitioners, we are employed by the organisation for which we work. Does that not mean that we have a natural bias when it comes to prioritising organisational requirements over those of its people?
Well… yes… and no. The role of the HR function is to support and deliver the business objectives by means of the people within that organisation. To that end, yes, the organisational requirements will always come first.
The achievement of goals
But what that doesn’t mean is that the employees delivering those objectives are treated as second best. This only becomes an issue if you believe the needs of the organisation and the individuals within it are mutually exclusive. In my view, nothing could be further from the truth.
An organisation needs to achieve its goals. The primary resource at its disposal in order to achieve those goals is those people. How do we best enable our people to achieve their goals, in pursuit of the wider objectives? We encourage them. We support them. We nurture them. And we develop them.
No conflict of interests
People perform at their very best when they are given all of the tools that they need to thrive and deliver. Organisations perform at their very best when their people are doing the same. And thus, to my mind, there is no conflict of interests. My role within the business is to do the right thing by both the business and by our employees.
Happy, engaged people deliver great results. If my functional role is to deliver great results for the business, I do so by ensuring the people within it are happy and engaged. The mechanisms I put in place to ensure those people are happy and engaged directly serve to meet those people’s needs and expectations from the business. And, thus, both business and employee are equally served.
Great HR practises shouldn’t be about taking sides. Great HR practises are about bringing both employer and employee together, in pursuit of mutual goals.