Melissa Fairman | ,| By
Many of us in HR hate the term “seat at the table” because it is such an over-used cliché. It reflects that HR doesn’t have influence in critical business decisions and isn’t treated as an equal with the CFO or CTO and has to get it.
As much as the term is overused I have to used it here because I want to talk about what happens once we get that seat at the table. Recently I’ve heard some tales of HR groups that have taken their seat so far their value is questioned.
Be careful what you wish for HR.
Example: a company that drug tests applicants as soon as they come in for an interview. What kind of welcome is that? Before any formal discussions have taken place, the company has already established they don’t trust candidates. I don’t imagine the relationship gets any warmer once you do get the job.
Example: Managers who are told they cannot “write up” nor have a performance discussion without first consulting with HR on the situation. When the manager contacts HR it takes a couple days for HR to return the call and the manager proceeds without HR. When they finally speak with HR they get a stern discussion about following the “procedure” before talking with an employee.
Our processes and procedures grow out of great intentions: by centralizing and standardizing we reduce risk. Less risk means less lawsuits and isn’t that what HR is supposed to be doing? Yes….but at what cost? Are we so focused on removing risk that we are creating employees that can’t act on their own?
The above examples are all real life situations. I’ve heard about them from all sides: the manager who is frustrated that everything has to go through HR, the applicant with 10 years of experience that is insulted by having to take a drug test before they’ve even discussed the job and the employees who don’t understand why it takes the company soooo long to fire someone that clearly isn’t doing their job.
In our efforts to maximize our influence, HR must strike a balance between risk management and empowering employees to make the right decisions at the right time.