Does #HR care more about employees or protecting the company? [Reader Question]

I love answering questions from readers, because they encourage me to explore topics I might otherwise not touch on, such as today’s discussion. Have a question of your own? Share it and I’ll try to work it into the schedule!

Does HR care more about the employees or protecting the company?

HR’s Primary Role

When someone is hired into the HR profession, their primary role is to support the “people” functions of the company, such as hiring, training, and retaining employees. It’s funny if you think about that being the primary responsibility set, because we know that managers select candidates, often recommend workers for development, and are the reason that 80-90% of workers leave the organization, Regardless, that’s our job: tie the business objectives with the people process objectives to the degree we can. 

Now, in many smaller companies, it’s common for HR to be seen as the the office “mom,” the amateur psychologist, or some mixture of the two. HR holds your hand when you need it. HR allows you to get things off your chest if you need a good pity party. HR tells you “no” if your idea is stupid/crazy/unfit for the workplace.

Note: I’m not making fun, because I’ve been there and I’ve done these things. However, those should be done as additions to that core set of responsibilities, not in lieu of them.

Protecting the Company vs Protecting the Employees

There are times where employees need to be protected at work. This could be due to company wrongdoing or just because the business necessitates it, like the first time I had to lay off a set of employees because their contracts were going away.

Just as I said in the blog about that layoff process, the most important thing I realized wasn’t how to handle COBRA paperwork or what to write in a termination/layoff letter–it was the fact that I cared about the people enough to treat them like human beings. That applies through every dealing, every interaction, and every transaction that occurs within HR. If you build up that trust with employees and do the right thing, you will be respected even when you have to do the less “fun” activities that sometimes come with the job.

In those instances where the company is doing unethical or improper things, you have to make the call about whether you want to work for a management team that’s willing to do those things (often at the expense of the people) or not. I know I couldn’t do it, but I don’t judge others for making hard decisions, either.

The bottom line here is that HR can be highly reactive or highly proactive. They can always be putting out fires and responding to problems or leaning in and leading the business by ensuring the people side of the operations are squared away. I don’t know about you, but I know the type of organization I’d rather be running.