Using Words

As human resource professionals, we serve as the nexus for most types of activities in our organization.  Employees joining the organization, being promoted, receiving pay increases, discussing performance issues, recognizing achievements, attending training, assisting with personal issues, and facilitating departure all interact with human resources.  Moreover, the managers that deal with these issues typically consult human resource staff on how to handle each type of transaction or issue.  As we discussed in the last post, the messaging may lead to a wrong conclusion.

Managers like employees find themselves doing more with less.  The age of the “managing manager” permitted managers to consider alternatives, guide events, and respond in a more thoughtful manner.  However, today, most of us manage without the luxury of time.  We are “working managers” responsible for completing work like an employee as well as overseeing others.  Consequently, when a manager comes to human resources, he or she wants to resolve the pressing issue as easily and expeditiously as possible.  When the person he or she interacts with offers a less than direct solution, the manager perceives human resources as a barrier or hindrance.  Moreover, the frustration many times leads to misinterpretation.

What can human resources do to improve its communication with managers and employees?

Be consistent – The message and advice should be consistent because consistency builds credibility.  The credibility of the human resource function diminishes significantly when employees and managers receive different answers.  Different responses lead to employees to assume that favoritism must be the reason for the differences, while managers equate the inconsistency with incompetence.  Moreover, repeated inconsistencies lead to “answer shopping” as employees and managers call multiple people looking for a different answer.

Provide an Explanation – An explanation helps an employee or manager understand the rational for the response and necessary action.  Given that many human resource issues possess specific legal or process requirements, explaining the limitations of the decisions available provides a sounder basis for the decision than simply conveying what must be done.  Ideally, the employee or manager will come to realize that the decision although maybe not their preference makes sense given the circumstances.

Show Understanding – The more that the human resource professional places him or herself in the place of the employee or manager; the more the receiver of the information interprets the message as not being personal.  Recognizing the motives, concerns, and feelings of the employee or manager demonstrates that the human resource professional actually cares and provided the best solution while working within the organization’s or law’s confines.

Educate Before – A proactive approach of educating customers reduces the disappointment when an employee or manager interacts with human resources over an issue.  Thought education and exposure, an employee or manager learns what can and should happen when certain events transpire.  This socialization not only helps set expectations, but also influences workplace behavior reducing issues and concerns.

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