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NextGen Magazine


Some Human Resources Practitioners Seek Ways to Improve

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Apr 14, 2023

Workers complain about and distrust their human resources departments, but some in the field are trying to accommodate the new world of work, Fast Company reported.

Those who work in HR face many institutional difficulties, among them the belief among employees that they represent management and are not on the side of the employee. That difficulty is acknowledged by HR people, too.

“Progressive chief people officers today view their role as … finding that balance,” said Lars Schmidt, the founder of HR consultancy Amplify.  “It’s not always easy, and you’re not always going to get that right. Obviously you’re representing the company, but you’re also having to advocate on behalf of employees.”

Leaders interviewed by Fast Company made recommendations to create a more progressive HR practice. One is to embrace both internal and external transparency.

Leaders can be more transparent about how an internal investigation is typically carried out, or how their company handles low-performing employees, without infringing on confidentiality, Melanie Naranjo, the vice president of people at compliance training platform Ethena, told Fast Company.  “In the absence of information, employees will fill the gaps with their own understandable concerns and speculation.”

Her company also offers updated tools and training methods, such as a more accessible alternative to traditional compliance training, using simple, straightforward language to create, say, a dating policy or harassment training. “We use really relatable language,” she said.

Another way to be transparent is to share insights on platforms such as LinkedIn. “Progressive teams are all embracing open source,” said Schmidt. “They’re all talking about what they’re doing; they’re talking about how they’re doing it. They’re talking about where they’re failing. They’re very candid and open about their practices.”

“If your external narrative is not matching your internal narrative, you’re going to have a problem on both sides,” said Colleen McCreary, who most recently oversaw both HR and communications at Credit Karma.

A second recommendation is to embed progressive practices into a company's work culture. Such a culture would decentralize its approach to people management, by enabling managers to help address personnel issues rather than taking them directly to HR.

“HR is not the first point of escalation,” said Schmidt. “We have a framework in place, [so] we can support you—but that’s your role as a manager”—thus, freeing HR to focus on strategic, big-picture work instead of low-level individual personnel issues.

Of course, HR needs the backing of management, particularly when it comes to an unpopular decision, such as layoffs. “It really comes down to: Who’s your boss, and how much do they back you?” said McCreary. “How much are you willing to put your own job on the line to do what you think is right?” 

Even so, HR is limited in what it can do.

“When people would ask me ... , what keeps you up at night, my number one concern was: I can build as many guidelines and processes and have all of these things in place,” McCreary said. “And yet, I don’t control what happens day-to-day for every single person in the company. That’s scary.”