Skip to main content

In today’s post, I wanted to talk about winning, what it looks like and the danger of ego’s in HR. In my kind of position I’ve privy to employee vs HR type matches, indeed the HR blogging world is rife with accounts of how HR stuck it to the employee. And winning is good, the issue is that often these so-called wins for HR, are complete losses for the organization – and indeed the employee. What I’m talking about are cases where individuals have a complaint either about the behavior of their manager, a procedural issue, or some other instance of perceived unfairness within the organization. Most often HR is called in to assist or indeed lead the complaint assessment – which essentially entails admitting nothing, finding nothing, and covering the backside of the organization (there are exceptions to this, great HR departments due exist, and typically even in poor HR departments when an external agency (police for example) are called in, positive outcomes can be gained). In these kinds of cases HR typically walks away feeling like they’ve won, the employee is left feeling isolated and alone, and the organization losses. Indeed you’re probably aware of someone or know someone who knows someone that this kind of thing happened to. As either a current or future HR practitioner, let's look at the aftermath and see if this ‘win’ was really worth it.

In all likelihood the employee will continue working with the organization, at least until they find another job. However understandably their level of engagement will drop off the map. They’ll become the worst kind of employee, an employee that turns up for their paycheck, and does enough to avoid a performance management conversation. They’ll also be quite vocal with people outside the company about what its like to work there, and will be very willing to save friends and family the aggravation of working there by telling them not to apply for roles etc. As a side note I’ve been in a position where a couple of trusted colleagues was treated very poorly by a previous employer in one of the cities I worked in, while vacancies came up which were a good match I never applied for any roles with the organization. Now in all likelihood my application was never missed by this employer, and they would have found a suitable match, however how many people like myself who knew of this organizations reputation didn’t apply? Particularly when dealing with specialist roles, reputation matters a great deal, and if an organization has a poor reputation – well good luck for that organization in recruiting the talent it needs. So while all this is going on, HR is still basking in the ‘win’, with no idea what they’ve actually done.

What I’ve outlined above happens every day in HR, HR is actually creating poor performers by not acting in good faith with the employee who made the complaint. Rather they’re more concerned with protecting the organization – while at the very same time causing a great deal of damage, both in output and in reputation. No one likes their practices or processes to be questioned, and say in the instance of a manager behaving badly which leads to a complaint, HR is essentially having its processes and practices questioned. After all, that manager was either selected or promoted inline with HR policies, indeed often someone like the HR Manager would have signed off on the contract being issued, and presumably, HR policies exist to restrict the opportunity for poor behavior from employees including managers. When you’re in this situation, put your ego or HR’s ego to one side, and remember what you're employed to do – you’re employed to drive productivity through improving engagement, improving HR related policies and practices, and attracting and retaining high caliber talent. So remember your role as an HR practitioner, and remember too what your roles aren’t – you are not there to get an ego boost at the expense of the organization.

By Brendan Lys

Operating at the intersection of Human Resources and Data Science, I leverage extensive specialist experience within Human Resources, with the methodologies and approaches of Data Science. This focus on the discovery of actionable insights from data, has been applied to areas such as: remuneration & benefits, workforce planning, recruitment, health & safety, diversity, and training. But what does the application of data science to HR challenges and opportunities actually look like. Within an HR framework the data we work with typically comes directly from our HRMIS, an advantage of using data science methodologies is that we can bring in additional data either held within the organization or from external sources - data which is out of reach from a pure HR analytics approach. Consider for example position descriptions, these contain a wealth of data that we typically ignore as its not in a analysis ready format. A side project I'm working on currently (April 2019) is using text mining on job descriptions to provide insights into which job family the position may fit into. The insights of my work have been enjoyed by organizations across a diversity of sectors including: Government (Australia and New Zealand), ASX and NZX listed companies, utilities, not for profit and higher education.