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The Human Resources department at your office is one of the most important departments around, although it’s an easy one to overlook. Most people only think of HR when they’re starting a job or leaving a job. Beyond that, most people don’t think of HR unless there’s some issue with their paycheck (and that’s assuming paychecks aren’t handled separately by a Payroll department). But a business without a healthy, functional HR can quickly lose its ability to function.
Proper HR training
Human Resources employees have to be in compliance with federal, state, and local laws regarding accommodations for people with disabilities and family medical leave. Businesses of a certain size have to offer unpaid leave through the Family Medical Leave Act, and every office’s HR rep should know FMLA backwards and forwards. The same is true of the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA. Failure to follow either could land the company in legal hot water.
If your HR reps aren’t properly trained, that needs to be fixed right away. HR compliance training doesn’t have to be painful, but it does have to get done. If your HR department wouldn’t know what a hostile work environment was if it bit them in the face, then you’ve got some serious issues to address. Improper training is a sign of a poorly run workplace, and while you may not have trouble hiring people now, eventually word will get around that the people behind ‘Company X’ either can’t or won’t run a business properly.
Beyond the company handbook
The company handbook should spell out a policy on everything from harassment (don’t do it) to whether or not personal social media accounts can be accessed at work. The most important stuff should be in writing for everyone’s protection. That way, if Bobby in Accounting is goofing off on Snapchat all day, someone can point him to the part of the handbook that says social media should only be used during your lunch break.
A weak HR department can lead to poor morale around the office. There’s a common saying that “HR is only there to protect the company.” While HR is loyal to the company, they’re also expected to stand up for employees who are being unfairly (or illegally) railroaded. Loyalty to the company shouldn’t override common sense. Firing an employee while they’re in the middle of Stage IV cancer treatment isn’t a good look for anybody, especially if the afflicted employee has been a model worker otherwise. It may not be illegal (but it also might be, depending on specifics) but any good HR department will tell the manager in charge to tread very carefully.
Employees who feel like they can’t go to HR because HR won’t treat them fairly are less likely to report possible issues, and those issues can get out of hand really fast. Imagine a sexual harassment case that starts with sexist remarks but ends with a supervisor offering a low-level employee money in exchange for sexual favors. It’s always better to address issues like that early on rather than wait until you’ve got a potential lawsuit on your hands. If workers don’t feel like they can approach HR with questions or complaints, then the department might as well not exist.