Is HR Misunderstood? Empower The Employee Voice

157010958Numerous criticisms have been aimed at HR and its function in the modern workplace: “It’s too bureaucratic,” employees complain, “I can’t stand the HR manager; he makes us perform pointless tasks without any clear vision or strategic insight.” For someone without a deep knowledge of workplace issues, this frustration is often familiar.

Not only is HR one of the least understood departments in the company, but it also seems to be the only one with the power to boss everyone else around (something known as “managing with ambiguous authority”).

HR can indeed appear overbearing at times, and, at worse, aimless. So what can HR do to make their department more relatable? The answer: Incorporate regular employee feedback into the HR decision process.

Give Employees A Voice

1. Overall, how satisfied are you with the amount of involvement you have in decision-making in this workplace?
2. How good would you say managers are at seeking the views of employees?
3. How good would you say managers are at responding to suggestions?

These are the types of questions HR should be asking employees, to ensure they are responding in the positive. HR functions much more efficiently, and employees feel more engaged, when they can share their thoughts in a way that’s practical, and when they can see directly how their feedback is having an impact.

Here are some methods to consider implementing to make employee feedback more effective:

• Online suggestions boxes – a web-based, anonymous forum where ideas can be posted and voted on (instead of conveniently getting lost). Those that attract the most attention progress to a further stage of consideration.
• “Graffiti walls” – a similar idea, where staff can write comments and opinions on a dedicated wall in the office; colleagues can then read these and add further suggestions.
• Always-on pulse surveys – a tool that asks employees to complete a regular anonymous feedback survey on workplace satisfaction, including question on what they think about the organisation and aspects of working life.

How The Employee Voice Can Contribute To The Bottom Line

While intuition has been the HR currency of the 20th century, data will become the currency in this one. Hence the rise in HR tools that allow for employee data to be aggregated, analysed, and then attributed much more clearly to business productivity.

Collecting employee feedback data via one or two of the techniques described above is a sure way to make employees feel like they are the ones driving HR decisions. Not only does it make people feel valued, but the always-on nature of this kind of employee feedback makes HR less bureaucratic, and a lot more dynamic.
General Electric recognize the value in this approach. For many decades they relied on a highly unpopular annual performance review, only recently realizing that this wasn’t a particularly good way to manage people or to boost performance, i.e. it led HR to focus excessively on process over outcomes.

The solution was an app called “PD@GE” for “performance development at GE”, which ascribes each employee a series of near-term goals, or “priorities.” These priorities can be discussed, improved and adjusted by the employees themselves, with the focus being less about grading how well people are doing, and more about constant improvement.

GE’s head of human resources, Susan Peters, says, “it is a really important element of what we’re trying to do, which is to make a major shift of the company’s culture towards simplification, towards better, faster outcomes for customers.” Does your staffing department have this kind of commitment to the employee voice?

Hugh Tonks

Hugh Tonks
Hugh Tonks is CEO of Thymometrics.

Hugh Tonks

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