This is not a rhetorical question. I’m curious. And this is just the right group to ask.
Here’s how my internal discussion plays out…
In this day and age of almost pathological focus on employee engagement you would think they work “for” the employee ensuring they get what they need to be “engaged” and add value to the company.
I’m sure management (read: Executive Management) believes HR works for the company focusing on finding an optimal mix of cost and productivity to be competitive and drive business success.
Maybe I’m naïve but it would seem that HR is in a pretty untenable position. A lose-lose situation if there ever was one. HR is constantly making decisions that like whether to include a new employee engagement option to support the employees – even though they know it may cost the company money, and with no proof it will provide a return they could be bad stewards of the company’s money. What to do?
Sure you can make the case that the engagement investment is good for both the employee and the company, but at the end of the day HR needs to come down on one side or the other.
HR could be the arbiter… the dispassionate third-party who provides a fair and balanced point of view taking into consideration both the company’s and the employee’s points of view. But the person signing HR’s paycheck is the company and we all know we shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds us.
So, while intellectually I know that providing the best environment to your employees will drive company success, the corporate brain is going to want to make sure that expense is never more than the optimal level. Not. One. Penney. More.
And as we all know (and the internets are full of discussion about this) proving ROI on any human resource investment is d
ifficult if not impossible (I mean true cause-effect, not correlation – plenty of correlation studies out there.) No one can tell the company that spending $511.46 on a tablet for an employee will return $5,284.84 in increased productivity. Yet it is entirely possible that that employee’s engagement score would go up, regardless of the return on the investment, and the company “could” be better off spending the money – but you just don’t know.
If HR focuses too much on the employee you’re not fulfilling your responsibility to your company (remember them – you probably see their commitment to you ever 2 weeks.) If you focus too much on the company your employees will feel the pinch and the lack of attention, and be disengaged.
Who does HR work for?
It’s a question I’m glad I don’t have to struggle with each day but most HR pros are either walking that thin line between executives and employees – or have made the decision.
HR can be a friend of the employee – but not get much love from the Execs.
HR can be the friend of the company – but create a less than perfect employee environment.
There isn’t a good answer is there?
How do you manage the cognitive dissonance?
Hit me in the comments – I’m curious if most HR people work for the company and provide just enough employee love to keep riots from breaking out – or if they cater to employee desires and take the heat from management when the discussion of labor costs come up?