In My book "Straight from the Heart-Thoughts and Experiences of an HR professional" and also in my
blogs in general, I have been calling attention to the fact that our internal customers do not perceive HR as meeting their "Real needs". In stead of facilitating and making their jobs more comfortable, line managers see HR personnel as those who wake up now and then to implement another bright idea or the latest fad that will reinforce the relevance of their existence.
In this connection even the routine activities pursued and followed up by HR, as for example the performance appraisal process, is seen by the line as a pain in the neck. Its completion is achieved within the deadline through arm twisting and threats of denying annual raise in salary in case of failure to do so. No effort is made during downtime to explain to the internal customers the significance of the process and how atleast in the long run, it would enable line managers to have competent people in their team.
Many years ago in 1996, I joined a central PSU as HOD of training department. Couple of months in to the role, I suggested to the GM at corporate office, my reporting officer, that we organize a Line-HR workshop which could throw up the real needs and issues of the production departments.Addressing these needs would earn respect for HR.It would also be an opportunity to clarify and correct any misconceptions or unrealstic expectations that they may have from HR.As for example, many line managers, even today do not want to know and understand at a personal level about employees working in their department.The moment an IR or HR issue comes up, the tendency is to refer it to the HR department and wash one's hand off. It is similar to referring to the maintenance department, the moment a maintainance issue crops up.
Yet, the fact remains that involvement of the production staff before and during a machine breakdown by providing inputs to the maintenance engineer makes a big difference.Information as to when the problem was first noticed, the symptoms observed about the problem etc goes a long way in helping the maintenance engineer to set right the problem faster and more efficiently. Similarly, many HR/IR related issues can be known sufficiently in advance, and nipped in the bud if the production managers and supervisory staff are actively involved.Infact, to my mind, in view of the line managers and supervisory staff being the first contact of employees, it is most essential that they are equipped with the minimum human relation skills.Engineering colleges would do well to include this as one of the subjects in the curriculum.
Coming back to my offer to organize the HR-Line Workshop, the GM was aghast that I even thought it fit to make such a suggestion- "What is the problem now? Are there any issues between HR and line? Are you trying to create problems between the two functions?." Thus my proposal got a silent burial even before it was born. I exhort youngsters of today to take up such an initiative and those in leadership positions to support them as this could show HR in a proactive light instead of being seen as 'reactive' most of the time to the 'Real needs' of customers.
I would like to end with the submission that HR needs to continually engage and dialogue with its internal customers to find out their real needs on the ground and offer home grown creative solutions to them.Nothing much will happen if new ideas are introduced because someone somewhere has done it or because it sounds good to claim to the world that the latest fad has been implemented in one's company.It is high time that HR seeks inputs from production / line departments as to how an issue can be addressed, instead of insisting on playing the role of the expert, providing readymade solutions every time.