Cows milking themselves these days; what does that mean for HR?

Yesterday I was on twitter, and one of my favourite twitterers @SteveBoese sent this tweet below:

Some cows in Michigan can milk themselves – http://bit.ly/TpBqg, how many employees still need HR help to change their address?

cow

Whilst I chuckled at the comment, little did I know that I was about to receive a ripper of an email that day from someone about what I should and shouldn’t be doing in my job. This prompted me to think about the different expectations employees have of HR and whether this varies depending on the environment that you work in.

In the past, I have worked in cultures which are cutting edge, young, savvy and ‘with the times’ so to speak. They respect professionals alike, and seemed to understand that HR is not there to simply follow employees around, get coffee and organise lunches or meeting rooms. Whilst the client groups I’ve looked after have been different, and no doubt challenging- they have always seemed to respect the HR as a profession and see the strategy behind it. I also think a key part of this was the message that the CEO sent with regards to people and performance. One CEO really valued leadership and saw it as the number priority for managers in the business and this made a huge impact on the culture. Huge.

In contrast I have worked for clients who demanded that I fix their pay, couldn’t understand why I didn’t know which employees were sick on any given day, asked me for site access or ring me to tell me that something isn’t working in the building. Now while I understand that we are a support function, and in some smaller companies this might be the way it works, but I work in a large organisation and none of these actions actually falls within my job description. I try to be as helpful as I can, referring them to the correct person but there are times when this isn’t enough to the employee and they walk away wishing to return to the old days. I even get called ‘the girl in personnel’ sometimes!

So given that employees often only see the frontline activities you do for them, and not the hidden strategic work you do, how do you convince them that you are competent in what you do?

I know that most of my key managers believe in what I do and know how hard I work. I also believe that employees who have come to me with a real issue which I have handled, have walked away very satisfied. There does seem to be the odd person who still just doesn’t get it though.

What are your experiences at places you’ve worked? I’d love to hear your comments.

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