What’s Your Company’s HR Temperature?

by Sharlyn Lauby on February 16, 2012

Plan more parties. That’s what the company said when I asked them the biggest challenge facing human resources.

Years ago, I was interviewing for a director-level position. During the conversation, I asked what the biggest challenge was facing the company’s HR department.  Everyone told me the same thing. Employee morale was low and we needed to hr, human resources, customer service, employees, training, customer, departmenthave more employee parties.  So, I’m thinking “I can do parties. In fact, I plan great parties. I’m the one you need.” And several interviews later, I was offered the job.

Once I started work, I noticed something odd. I would be in my office, working away, and when employees came into HR…they came to my office.  No one else’s office.  Only my office.  It didn’t matter what the request was for.

Employee with an insurance question – my office.

Supervisor wanting to talk about promoting an employee – my office.

Manager to discuss employee cafeteria ideas – my office.

After two weeks of this, my boss called me in to ask how I was getting settled in.  Not sure how he would take my answer, I said “You guys told me that what was needed around here were more parties. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say there’s a problem in the human resources department.”

His reply? “I’m glad you figured it out.”

He went on to explain that human resources “didn’t feel warm”.  Not that the thermostat was broken, but the people working in the department weren’t friendly and helpful. They viewed employees as a disruption to their day instead of a customer within the organization.  Ultimately, HR had to change. And after several months and unfortunately, a few personnel changes, employees were utilizing the entire HR department. Not just one person.

I remember my boss coming by months later, faking a glance at the thermostat and saying “it was warm in HR”.  We all smiled.  To this day, every time I walk into a business, I’m reminded of his “temperature” comment.  Because you can really tell – the companies with HR departments that get it and those organizations that don’t.

So, I’m curious. When was the last time you stopped and thought about the temperature at your HR department?  Would people say “it’s hot in here” or ask for a sweater?

Image courtesy of IronicDiatribe

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