How You Can Help HR - So HR Can Better Help You

Employees Can Help the HR Department Flourish

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Reader Question:

Usually, the Human Resources Department is expected to be the support staff for the rest of the company. The main mission of any HR department should be to help the business grow by making sure the best people are found, and then treated correctly.

After all, there is nothing more important to a business than the people who make it run. But, a reader sent in the following question: “What kind of support would HR managers expect from staff?”

Our Response:

An excellent question. What kind of support do the people who offer support for a living need? Here are three ways you can support your HR department — which will, in turn, make your life a heck of a lot easier.

Fill out that paperwork properly and promptly. Don't you find it funny that HR asks you for information on your race and then tells you that race won't be considered in anything? Well, it's not because we can't make up our minds, its because the federal government requires many businesses to report information on the race and gender of employees and applicants.

What about those health insurance forms? We don't send them to you for our health, we send them for yours. If you don't fill them out promptly, you could be stuck without company provided health insurance until the next open enrollment period—which will be a year away.

If you're young and healthy and think that you'd prefer to pay the Affordable Care Act (ACA) fine for not having health insurance than your portion, remember that even the young and healthy can get into car accidents, slip on icy sidewalks or get cancer.

We'll cry with you when you come with your tale of woe and misery, but if you missed the deadline, we can't pay your hospital bills.

If you're sick, or having a baby or need to stay home to take care of a sick family member, that may qualify for time off under FMLA. But, you have to fill out the paperwork for that to apply.

We're not being mean or nosy; we're trying to get you the help you need. (Of course, there are exceptions in cases of emergencies. If you have a heart attack, we don't expect you to fill out the paperwork before calling 911. We'll take care of that later. But, if you're pregnant? You know the baby is coming, so fill out the paperwork early.)

Write those performance appraisals and self appraisals. Why does HR care? Because we care about people and we care about the company. Performance appraisals cover both sides of this coin.

First, the people. If you're a fantastic manager who is constantly giving feedback—positive and negative—to your people, an annual performance review simply documents what you've said all along.

But, most managers aren't great at providing feedback. The annual performance review allows employees to know how they are doing and what they need to do in order to improve. This information is critical for employees that want to improve.

But why the self appraisal? Because many managers don't know everything that you do. This is especially true in good employees because the boss doesn't have to hover over you every day.

So, when you write your own self appraisal, you take the opportunity to let your boss know how fabulous you are.

You're missing out on a great opportunity if you skip this, and we don't want you to miss out on any opportunity to show how you shine.

Second, the company. Performance appraisals help protect the company because they are an official record of what happened and how an employee performed during the year. The company can use the documentation in case they need to fire an employee.

While employees would prefer not to ever be fired, sometimes it needs to happen. While HR would always want more documentation about a poor performing employee than one performance appraisal, this is a good start.

Performance appraisals aren't just used to document information for firing, but to justify raises, promotions, and assignments to special projects. Then, if anyone ever questions why Bob got promoted when Steve didn't, we can say, “well, this shows that Bob exceeded expectations in 8 of his 10 annual goals and Steve only exceeded expectations in 7 of his 10 annual goals, which is why the promotion when to Bob.

Follow the company rules. Even though you  might think your HR department loves nothing better than to sit around making up new rules, most of us would prefer working in an environment where nit picky rules aren't necessary. Following the rules actually makes everyone's life easier.

When we say, “If you're sick, you need to notify your boss before starting time,” it's not because we don't believe you're sick. We do it because we need to know who is going to be there so we can accommodate for your absence.

While it's true that some employees take advantage of sick days, and are terminated, most people are just sick, and we need to know you're not here. Additionally, federal law requires us to follow specific rules regarding some serious illnesses, so please just call in.

Another rule all companies have is to follow federal, state and local laws. When your HR department says, “You can't use your company computer to watch inappropriate videos” we're not being prudes. We're protecting the company from liability from sexual harassment laws.

When we say, “You can't ask a candidate how old she is,” we're trying to comply with federal laws prohibiting age discrimination. When we tell you that you need to work with your disabled employee to provide the reasonable accommodations she needs to do her job, we're making sure we're in compliance with the American's with Disabilities Act.

If you don't understand why you're being told to do something, just ask. Most likely there's a very logical reason why your HR department is asking you to do that.

Doing these few things can make your HR manager's life so much easier — which means she can focus on things that will help develop you and your employees and make your lives easier.

When you don't do these things, then your HR manager has to spend her time battling sexual harassment law suits, chasing information for government required reports, and trying to explain that when you decline company health insurance, your pneumonia is your problem.

Additional Areas in Which HR Would Like to Help You

Here are some of the areas in which HR would like to help you if freed from the role of chief nag, systematic rule maker, and strong arm for executive management.