To make sense of the way that children grow and develop, theorist Erik Erikson identified a series of stages of psychosocial development. Stage 5, which generally occurs as children enter their teen years, refers to the identity versus role confusion stage, wherein these adolescents seek to understand who they are and thus “try on a lot of hats” in various situations until they figure out who they want to be (the rebel, the prepster, the people pleaser, etc).
Now, while we’re confident your HR department isn’t run by a bunch of teens, it may still be undergoing somewhat of an identity crisis that would place them firmly in the corporate version of stage 5! You see, in the past, HR was the department responsible for both pushing papers – because the role primarily arose due to administrative requirements – as well as policing the people in the office – serving as the developer and enforcer of rules.
These days, however, the role has evolved and as we ring in the new decade, more changes are ahead. Below, we outline a few of the NEW key roles for your HR professional.
If you’ve ever watched The Office, you’ll know that they had a very active party planning committee (ironically, that was not staffed by anyone on their HR team!) Beyond planning actual social engagements, your HR rep is also largely responsible for helping to forge social connections both within and between departments so that workers can best understand how their job plays into the greater work achieved by the company. This is further complicated in today’s day and age by the sheer volume of workers who work remotely or on alternative schedules, which requires the HR professional to think strategically about how to build bridges between folks who aren’t in the same office building, or perhaps even the same time zone or country.
While an HR representative should never take the place of actual legal counsel, of all the folks in the office, they should have the best understanding of employment laws in your company! In the “me too” era, they should be especially adept at navigating sexual harassment claims, gender bias claims, and really any discriminatory laws as they pertain to your industry and state or federal guidelines. Further, they’ll be your touch point for just about any legal issue that springs up and should be your first port of call before you even consult your lawyer, if for no other reason than so they can begin collecting evidence to help your cause.
Manager of Managers
Previously, HR didn’t step in much when it came to providing guidance, support, and even reviews of managers. However, study after study has found that just because someone is good at their job, doesn’t mean that they’re good at managing people. Pair this data with evidence suggesting that a crummy manager is the reason that most folks opt to leave their jobs and you’ll quickly realize that someone MUST manage those managers, and that someone is an HR rep. Acknowledging that managers don’t come right out of the box, you should lean on your HR folks to provide training, guidance, and even regular 360-degree reviews to help keep managers on track and make sure that they are…well, managing their teams well!
Now more than ever, we use data to inform our business choices and this is unlikely to change as we enter 2020. What should be different, however, is how said rep collects the data you need. Now more than ever, HR reps need a reliable system that can quickly collect data on employees and perform analytics that can not only inform the direction of your business, but also fulfill much of your reporting requirements. If you haven’t already, making 2020 the year that you invest in such a system – your HR rep, and your employees who are tired of filling out duplicate paperwork, will thank you!
Now more than ever, your HR rep has become someone that has an important seat at the table during discussions about the future trajectory at the company. They can leverage their knowledge about how your current company works – including who does what and how the roles interplay – to help you determine sensible and attainable goals for the year(s) ahead. Further, if you’re planning on growing your business in a new direction, your HR rep can develop a plan to hire the folks who will fill the new roles, create a performance development plan for said job, and even figure out how to integrate these folks into the current workflow. As part of their fortune telling skills, you should also be leveraging your HR folks for any and all succession planning so that your business can remain strong even if a key leader leaves or there is another shift in the business.
Cheerleader of Change
In addition to basically giving the “OK” for any changes for your company in the year ahead, your HR staff is also very much responsible for implementing the new process and promoting its use. This means drafting up all the rules and requirements that accompany such change, determining how to best roll it out to the team in terms of training (and now there are more choices than ever in terms of how to get that accomplished!), and implementing a system to evaluate the roll out and the new system’s continued use and drive for improvements.
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