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7 Ways to Make Human Resources More Human

June 2, 2020
By Alita BlufordJune 2, 2020

In many organizations, the Human Resource department is perceived either as the arresting officer, judge and jury; or, the lifeline, rescuer, and therapist. A quick search on HR job description confirms that none of these nouns are included in the job description of a human resources department. Whether your organization is large and you have separate departments to perform these functions, or it is small and 1 person performs many, know that this causes a great deal of stress on the human resource staff. It is not how a human resource department is designed to function, and it makes a huge difference to your company.

7 Ways to Make Human Resources More Human

The Seven Functions

  1. Talent Acquisition/Recruitment
  2. Compensation Management
  3. Benefits Administration
  4. Training and Development
  5. Performance Management and Appraisal
  6. Employee and Labor Relations
  7. Compliance Management

Why Have HR?

The purpose of employee relations is to strengthen the employer-employee relationship through identifying and resolving workplace issues; measuring employee satisfaction and morale and providing support and input to the organization's performance management system. These are proactive activities. Yet, many activities observed in a human resource department are re-active: an employee ‘threatens’ to ‘go to human resources’; an employee sitting in the human resource office crying or shouting and even an occasional call to the local police department clearly signals that something is amiss with the system. It is not functioning as planned. If a manager is untrained in conflict resolution or is a poor communicator, or perhaps low on the emotional intelligence scale he/she does not have the necessary skills to lead ‘themselves’ much less a department of employees. 

Hardships of HR

These individuals find themselves buried in a wave of humans knocking at their door who are looking for help addressing a conflict with their manager and/or co-worker. It often feels like being on the receiving end of a fire hose. This results in:

  • unpaid overtime due to inability to control unscheduled, reactive emotional meetings
  • burnout of human resources personnel
  • frustration and turnover among human resources personnel and employees
  • poor performance of required duties by the HR personnel creating a bad reputation for HR throughout the organization.

This is not an all inclusive list, however, one can easily see that it sets up a lose-lose situation. The Human Resources employee gets burned out and frustrated. The employee feels victimized and unsupported. The result is often unwanted turnover. While calculating and describing the cost of unwanted turnover is beyond the scope of this blog, trust me when I claim that turnover carries an emotional, psychological, and financial cost to the organization and its employees. Certainly, this is NOT the human or human way for people to be treated. There is a better way!

The Better Way

Traditional and outdated performance and promotion models allow employees to be promoted when they are good at the tasks required at their positions or achieve certain scores from their managers during a performance review meeting. Usually, this is not an accurate indication of this person’s readiness to lead a group of people. In fact, people who are intelligent and good performers are usually NOT emotionally intelligent and do not possess good people managers. Leadership training and development of a high potential curriculum within the organization is necessary to prevent the line of ‘complainants’ outside the door of Human Resources. Leadership training empowers employees to develop into better people and employees. They inherently will perform better and will collaborate better because they have developed skills in communication, empathy, and self-awareness among others. These are skills of emotionally intelligent individuals. The result is improved team performance and outcomes. Human resources had a better reputation in the organization and individuals approach the department with more of a collaborative mindset than a need for rescuing or enforcing.

Is Training Worth it?

This question is often raised by executives who are concerned about whether training employees carries a positive return on investment. Admittedly, training every employee is expensive. There are many costs in addition to the cost of the training program.

  • Time must be spent identifying a training need. Time is money.
  • Someone needs to determine if an off the shelf program is suitable or customization is needed. 
  • After this upfront initial time investment, the follow-up and implementation of the training concepts are critical to ensuring organizational distribution of the concepts taught. 
  • Adult learning theory indicates that individuals will not remember what they have learned if they simply sit in a lecture or participate in a webinar. The information must be implemented, monitored, and guided discussion must occur.
  •  The concepts must be related to a problem or circumstance in the workplace.
  •  Management must allow time for application of the concepts, independent of meeting standard performance metrics on traditional and routine job tasks. 
  • Approximately 60-90 days after the training, the main concepts should be presented in a refresher type format. A very brief survey/quiz is often the delivery method. During the immediate post training period, employee access to an individual who can answer questions and concerns surrounding the material presented is a great idea. 

Simply put, training is expensive and not a one and done activity. Another cost; production is reduced or halted during training hours. This is an obstacle to effective training in many organizations. Many well-meaning human resource departments offer optional training that is a one-hour online training. The goal being to be able to report that training was offered. This type of a ‘check off the box’ training offering is a half-hearted attempt to inflate training offerings and totally ineffective in providing learning and a positive return on investment in training programs. This approach always backfires sooner or later.

Final Thoughts

Yes, effective training programs are expensive. When done correctly, they are a good investment. If an organization provides effective training, does it guarantee that their employees will not leave? Absolutely not. However, during the time that the employees are part of the team, they will be more effective and efficient in their performance and in generating positive outcomes. Conversely, when employees are not trained, the organization becomes toxic. Not only is it important that we train employees to learn and grow, we must also learn from our own mistakes. Lack of consistent clearly identified and communicated performance goals and learning outcomes also create expenses. It may not be initially apparent, because the costs are soft. Or may take time to trickle down from customers not returning or reporting poor quality products and services to others. The organization begins to hemorrhage, and leaders spend time and money trying to determine root cause. When a human resources department is not trained and sensitive to the needs of the organization as well as the employees, organizations ultimately fail. Make your human resources department ‘human’. Train your HR business partners. Train your leaders and managers. You will not need to worry about judges, juries, policemen, burnout, or long lines in the human resource department! The money you spend on tissues will for sure be less!


About Alita Bluford

Alita Bluford, MS, HROD, is a Senior Organizational Effectiveness Consultant and Corporate Trainer. She has over 27 years of experience in Human Resources and Development and believes that organizations can achieve their strategic goals and mission by leveraging effective human resource management. She is the author of “How to Keep Good Employees” and has created and delivered engaging and effective learning experiences in a variety of industries; both in the for profit and not for profit sectors.


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