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Amongst executives and employees alike, HR’s reputation often lacks the credibility and authority needed to have the impact on the business that HR leaders would like. 

There are a variety of reasons for this depending on the relationship HR has had with leadership historically and how impactful the department has been when tasked with business decisions or initiatives in the past. But the question is how can you change it? How can you dig HR’s reputation out of a hole and make the function be seen as a key component of the leadership team and business overall?

At People Managing People are always looking for new and improved ways to serve the members of our community. 

After launching our editorial advisory board earlier this year, we wanted to help members gain access to the expertise of these HR thought leaders and have begun to explore themes for interactive sessions that give members the opportunity to pick their brains a bit. 

Recently, we invited members to sit down with Keri Ohlrich, CEO and co-founder of the Abbracci Group and a founding member of our editorial advisory board, for our first ever Ask Me Anything session. 

The topic was HR’s reputation but, as the title suggests, the conversation was allowed to roam a bit.

To give you an idea of what this type of conversation looks like, we’re publishing this one for all to see. We’re hoping that these conversations will grow and help you find solutions to your biggest challenges as an HR professional.

If you want to join future sessions like this, become a member of the People Managing People community!

3 Key Takeaways

Rather than trying to distill the whole video down for you, let’s just take a look at a couple key takeaways. For the full range of Keri’s insight, we trust the full video of the session provided above will suffice. 

1. Rebuilding trust with employees after conducting layoffs isn’t just on HR.

There’s a misconception that HR is in the driver’s seat during a layoff, deciding who stays, who goes and how and when a layoff is executed. Ohlrich recommends having the right people in the room during the layoff so that employee sentiment isn’t just directed at HR departments. 

“I've always made sure that it's not the HR person doing the layoff,” Ohlrich said. “We might be there, but a lot of companies will abdicate the managers, leaving all responsibility on HR, especially during layoffs. They're not even in the meeting.

"And so that hurts HR so much because frankly, we don't have the power to make the decision on who's getting laid off. So I think there's this misnomer that people think that HR is like identifying all the people. So then if you have a meeting with HR, it's really scary. The manager needs to be there, it's part of their role. They need to lead the meeting and HR is there to support it.”

2. Corporate jargon doesn’t do you any favors.

How you speak to employees matters when it comes to building trust and relationships. And one thing that can undermine trust and people’s desire to get behind building a relationship with HR and the vision you present as a HR leader is speaking to them like an empty suit. 

“They think you're like a cop already,” Ohlrich said. “And so they already kind of see you with suspicion a little bit. They think you're a snitch or something like that. (They look around like) oh, HR is in the room. It's horrible. So your language does mean something. How do you expect people to be vulnerable and share things with you  if you can't talk to them in a real way?”

3. Building rapport remotely happens on camera. 

Some folks have struggled with relationship building in the era of remote work as it presents a different challenge to connecting with people compared to in person settings. Ohlrich provided her advice on what works best for creating a connection remotely. 

“If it's not on camera, I can't build the rapport as much,” she said. “I've found that if everyone's on camera, I will forget that we haven't met in person because you can kind of chat. You learn things about someone by what’s in their background. You can actually bond quite a bit on camera.

"So I take the first part of the meeting to ask how they're doing and maybe closing with some, something like what you're gonna do on the weekend. Finding some kind of social interaction to chit chat because in the office, you can run into each other on the way to the bathroom and you know, it's not a meeting so you could chit chat. But when you’re remote every single time and it's like, start at 10, go right into the meeting. How do you put just a few minutes of chit chat in there to talk? You have to make time for it.”

By David Rice

David Rice is a long time journalist and editor who specializes in covering human resources and leadership topics. His career has seen him focus on a variety of industries for both print and digital publications in the United States and UK.