Seven (7) BIG signs your HR Department is being undervalued!

Here are Seven (7) BIG signs that your HR Department is being undervalued. If you recognize that any of these signs are present at your organization, it may be time to take action and reposition the role of your HR team in your workplace.

It’s been an exciting time for Human Resources professionals! At least, for HR professionals who work in companies that appreciate the value that this important group of individuals can bring to their organizations. While the history of the HR profession is steeped in administrative work (think payroll, policy enforcement etc.), HR has evolved to play an important strategic role in helping their organizations to achieve their goals and objectives. Unfortunately, some organizations aren’t taking full advantage of their HR teams and are undervaluing their HR departments by starving them of resources, excluding them from critical conversations related to their organizations’ strategies and relegating them to mostly administrative roles. Here are seven BIG signs that your HR Department is being undervalued. If you recognize that any of these signs are present at your organization, it may be time to take action and reposition the role of your HR team in your workplace.

1.    Your CHRO doesn’t have a seat at the strategy table

Modern companies understand that HR deserves a seat at the strategy table. As writer Sim Lamb notes: ”Through innovation and creativity, the new generation HR function looks at the latest ways to develop people. Having a seat to communicate this at the board/executive level will enable businesses to make better-informed decisions to benefit their workforce.” This communication that Lam writes about is certainly not one-way communication. HR leaders also play an important role in communicating the leadership’s expectations to employees. Writer Ruchi Kulhari summarizes this responsibility well in a article when she writes: “An HR leader can be an executive’s strategic partner by influencing employees into fulfilling the executive’s objectives. HR leaders are in a unique position to steer the behavior of employees and company leaders so that they are more innovative, more productive, etc.”

Fortunately, research suggests that modern companies are moving in the right direction in terms of HR having a seat at the table. Research conducted by EY in the Nordics in 2022 shows that 79% of respondents stated that HR Directors in their companies were permanent members of their top leadership teams. If your CHRO isn’t currently a part of your C-Suite, chances are that your HR team is being underutilized. If that’s the case in your business, consider giving your HR department a seat at the strategy table right away!

2.    HR doesn’t have a seat at the branding table

Modern companies understand that brands are built from the inside. A company can have a great visual brand (for example, having a well-designed website, dynamic social media posts, outstanding packaging etc.), but still have a weak overall brand due to poor company culture. As Ginger Hardage, former SVP at Southwest Airlines notes: “Brands are built from the inside. The way a company behaves on the inside will eventually find its way to the outside.” And, if brands are built from the inside, it stands to reason that HR professionals (the guys and gals responsible for branding elements such as company culture, employee engagement and employee experience), should be considered as de facto members of their organizations’ branding team.

When HR professionals have a seat at their company’s branding table, they can provide their branding peers with useful information about their organizations’ level of employee engagement and the resulting impact on the company’s various branding efforts. And,  HR can more easily lean on their marketing peers for support in areas with mutual interests, goals and objectives. As writer Ben Plomion notes: “Perhaps the most important overlap between HR and marketing centers on their joint responsibility in developing and selling a company’s values, both internally and externally.”

HR professionals can bring a lot to the table when it comes to branding. If you are excluding your HR team from conversations about your brand, you are most definitely undervaluing your HR team. If you want to build a stronger brand and a stronger business, consider giving your HR team a seat at the branding table so that they can work more closely together with their marketing colleagues instead of in silos.

3.    Employees see your HR Department as the “Policy Police”

One of the biggest indicators that your HR Department is being undervalued by the organization is that employees see HR as your organization’s “policy police”. A valued HR department should be viewed as an advocate and a catalyst for matters relating to employee workplace wellness such as company culture, employee engagement and employee experience. This should be the case in any modern workplace environment! As HR professional Rajeev Bhardwaj notes: “Competitive pressure in today’s business environment has catapulted the HR department from an administrative overhead to the fountainhead of innovative solutions to cultivate and nurture talent.” If you haven’t empowered your HR team to come up with innovative solutions to cultivate and nurture talent, this is a clear sign that you are undervaluing your HR department.

4.    You have poor internal communication

If your employees are the last group of people to find out what’s going on in your company, it’s likely that you’re not giving your HR team the opportunity to keep your employees up to date on important developments within your organization. If you truly value your HR team, consider giving them access to the same types of resources that you give your marketing team (copywriters, graphic designers, social media specialists, videographers etc.) so that they can communicate with your internal stakeholders at least as well as your marketing team communicates with your customers.

5.    You have a toxic culture

If you have a toxic culture, this is a clear sign that you are undervaluing your HR team by having them work mostly on administrative tasks rather than transformational tasks such as improving company culture and working to improve employee engagement. As Ravi Swaminathan, Founder and CEO at TaskHuman, points out: “Great HR leaders advocate for employees, and this goes beyond relaying information. HR should analyze employee feedback, quickly find solutions to problems, and outline why and how initiatives affect the organization’s bottom line.”

If you want to have a great company culture where team members are engaged and excited about the work that they do, you need a great HR team that can identify any employee engagement challenges that may be taking place, assess the situation and come up with creative, transformational solutions to the problem. Don’t undervalue your HR team by denying them this opportunity to help improve your culture and help team members feel valued and engaged.

6.    You have trouble attracting your industry’s best and brightest to join your organization

Research conducted by LinkedIn revealed that 75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before even applying for a job, while research conducted by Glassdoor reports that 69% of respondents would not take a job with a company that had a bad reputation, even if they were unemployed!

If you’re having a tough time attracting your industry’s “best and brightest” to even apply for a position at your organization, the problem might be that you have a weak employer brand. And, that means that one of two things may be happening. Either word has spread that your organization has a toxic culture or your organization might actually be a great place to work, but the market simply doesn’t know enough about your organization to want to work there. In the former case, HR has its work cut out to improve company culture (see Reason #5 above). In the latter case, HR has the opportunity to work with their marketing colleagues to spread the word about the benefits of working with your organization. It must be noted that the market is split about whether developing the employer brand is the responsibility of HR or marketing, but a growing number of organizations believe that this responsibility should be shared between these two groups of professionals. In LinkedIn’s Global Recruitment Trends 2017 report, 66% of respondents indicated that their HR teams are involved, in some way, in their organizations’ efforts to position their brands in the market!

If your HR department isn’t involved in helping your organization build a strong employer brand that attracts your industry’s best and brightest, chances are that your HR team is being undervalued.

7.    You have high employee turnover

You’ve probably already heard the term “people don’t leave jobs, they leave their managers”. While there may be some truth to the matter, that may not be the full picture. According to data published by Pew Research Center in 2021, 63% of workers quit their jobs due to low pay, 63% quit because of no opportunities for advancement and 57% said they felt disrespected at work. Fortunately, these are all problems that can be fixed – especially when HR gets involved in working with their leadership teams to address these issues. HR professional and writer TH Herbert in an article entitled Improving Employee Retention In 2023 With A Positive Workplace Culture, lists four actionable strategies for creating a healthy company culture that improves employee retention rates. Herbert’s four strategies are: (i) actively listen to your employees (ii) offer clear opportunities for advancement (iii) focus on company culture and (iv) have fun in the workplace. These are all areas where modern HR professionals can add significant value to their organizations and help stem the flow of employees leaving your organization.

Modern companies that truly value their HR teams empower them with the resources, training and authority to truly make a positive impact on their organizations’ operations. If you can identify any of these seven scenarios in your organization, there’s a good chance that your HR team is being undervalued and that you need to take bold steps to elevate the department’s role in helping the organization to reach its strategic goals and objectives.

By Ron Johnson

Author | Speaker | Storyteller (Co-founder, Blueprint Creative)
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