How to Avoid Becoming the Stereotypical HR Dept

Katie Harrower |


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Hello and welcome back to HR Fun Fridays! I do hope this Friday you get a little more done than last week.

But before you get down to the hard stuff, here’s another ‘thought dump’ by me to brighten up your morning.

This week’s topic is the Stereotypical HR Department, and how we can avoid becoming just that.

To write this article I wanted to find out what people think about the HR departments in their companies, and I’m going to warn you now, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows.

There are a lot of stereotypes that surround HR, but the main theme that runs through them all is inauthenticity. Employees often get the impression that their HR department is just trying way too hard. Spontaneous in-person appearances and mediocre work parties are just some of the features that leave employees thinking of HR as a work version of Regina’s mum in Mean Girls:

‘We’re not a regular HR department, we’re a cool HR department’.

This isn’t true for all HR departments, of course. But it is true for some. And if you’ve read this blog post up to this point and spotted some trends in your own HR efforts, read on, my friend.

We need to fight against the stereotypes that cloud all work departments, and HR is one of them. The stereotypical HR Department exists, but we don’t want to be a part of it, because they’re generally not liked very much by employees - which kind of defeats the entire purpose, doesn’t it?

Find that ‘sweet spot’

One trend I noticed when researching for this article was that many employees think of HR as wearing a kind of disguise – pretending to be ‘for the employee’, when actually when it comes down to it, they’ll back the company to the bitter end. Employees hate this, but sometimes it’s not so easy to avoid. When it comes down to it, who employs us? The company. But on the other hand, the company wouldn’t exist without its employees, so their happiness and well-being should be a priority, of course. It’s a sticky situation and there’s no definite answer to the problem (I know, helpful advice, right?).

My take on it is to find that ‘sweet spot’, somewhere between standing ‘for the company’ and standing ‘for the employee’. This sweet spot probably varies between companies, depending on size, function and work styles. It’s going to take time to find it, but hopefully when you do, everyone within the company will see the HR department as being on their side.

Throw actually good parties

I’m not saying throw an illegal rave in the office basement. Although no doubt if you read last week’s HR Fun Fridays post, you might expect me to, as I finally brought up the courage to admit I’m a millennial, which wasn’t easy.

A lot of what I’ve read (and what others have told me from their experience) suggests that when some HR departments throw a party, it’s hyped up beyond what they can deliver. It feels forced. It comes across as a means for HR to tick a box.

So instead of having a bi-annual party for the sake of having a bi-annual party, have a party on actual special occasions. Or maybe not even special occasions – I know I’d find it hilarious if my boss announced we were going to have a party tonight (Nick, if you’re reading this, it’s a strong hint). Next time you go to throw a party or event, ask yourself how it’s going to come across. Will employees see it as a great idea which will bring people together, or will they see through you?

Don’t let your efforts come across fake

Again, when approaching employees in an attempt to get to know them better, they might see it as a way to mark a box on a spreadsheet somewhere. We need to make sure our efforts don’t come across as inauthentic, or like we’re approaching them for the sake of approaching them. It kind of reminds me of writing a blog – you shouldn’t ever be writing simply for the sake of writing. You need to bring value to the conversation. Can you bring value to your employees, in return for them bringing value to the company? And again, are they going to see through you?

Everyone hates rules

One of the main tropes picked up on for HR departments is their intense passion and love for documents with pages and pages of rules. Let’s be clear, rules are the absolute worst.

But we need them, obviously. Some of them are entirely necessary – but some aren’t. We should all take the time to review our rules and weed out any unnecessary ones, because they can breed a negativity in the workplace that places work as a chore, instead of something at least half enjoyable.

To sum up, be real with your employees. Spend time with them because you want to spend time with them, not to tick a box, because I guarantee they’ll see through it and you’ll end up becoming the dreaded Stereotypical HR Department (oh, the horror!).

Join us next week for more fabby HR fun on the Youmanage blog, and if you’d like to find out more about what we do at Youmanage, head over to our product page. Enjoy your Friday!

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Katie is the Marketing Executive here at Youmanage. Within the wider team, she is responsible for managing all aspects of marketing communications, including content and digital strategy, social media, website traffic, prospective client experience and the overall satisfaction of existing Youmanage users.