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BEC: Practising human resources etiquette

Siobhan Robinson-Morris

BEC: Practising human resources etiquette

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In several conversations with colleagues recently, I have heard of worrying trends they have experienced with human resources (HR) practitioners over the last few years. They said these interactions left them disenchanted with HR professionals and contemplating where the human was in their human resources.

And while a lot of people confuse the roles and skill sets of many HR practitioners, some of the examples given show that we must do better. We will discuss the areas of concern below and ways in which we can ensure that we are not those types of practitioners.

The greatest complaint received was the reactive nature in which unsuccessful candidates are notified. Several people highlighted this as a challenge and indicated that most cases, they were the ones who reached out to the prospective employer after weeks, sometimes months of no feedback after having completed an interview.

Conversations regarding rejection, in any area, are never easy to have. However, proper etiquette dictates that all candidates are contacted as soon as a decision is made. Further, if you have a delay in making a decision, you can always alert the candidates that you are still deliberating. Interviews are
a nerve-wracking experience for even the most confident person, and therefore, anything that we as professionals can do to ease that pressure should be done.

Additionally, most candidates provide an email address at the
point of application. You can employ an automatic message to assure applying candidates that their application was received, and draft a simple rejection email for those candidates whom you have interviewed, but were not successful and ensure that this is disseminated in a timely manner after the completion of the interview.

The second major complaint is one of poor customer service – many times we forget that as HR, we are the number one body that interacts with the internal customer, from job letter request, to salary/pay slip queries, vacation queries, explanation of insurance benefits, handling of disciplinary and grievance matters, we interact with the internal customers more consistently than any other department. It is therefore critical that the HR department provide exemplary customer service at all times.

Follow up, and follow through, meeting the deadlines that you have set for yourself, being responsive to queries, and being proactive in dealing with disciplinary and grievance matters, which, if allowed to fester could result in a much larger issue for the department and by extension the company. Again, on a daily basis, the department will be bombarded with myriad of enquiries, all of which are critical to the individual who requests them.

However, there is nothing wrong with setting service standards which both the department and the customers will be held to. I once worked for a company that required two days’ notice in requesting a job letter. It may seem extreme, but with over 500 employees, it became necessary to institute and enforce these types of service standards to ensure that the department meets
all of its expectations. Also having clear deadlines and expectation avoids miscommunications and confusion between the departments and the employee.

“HR never comes to brand events or any events outside of working hours”, “who, you would never catch the HR team at anything so”. These are just a few of the comments which I have heard from employees about the HR team, and a lot of times it is true. We do not think that we need to support the initiatives of, say, the marketing department or the more visible departments in the company.

However, as an employee of a company, you have a vested interest in its success. You must be a brand ambassador of your company, and you must be present and accounted for, at company events. This is how you keep abreast of developments in the company, build rapport and network with the staff.

In conclusion, this article was not aimed at bashing hard working HR professionals. However, it is good at times to check in with your internal customers and gauge the level of service which you are offering. You are the glue that holds companies together, you are the largest customer service provider and your role is critical. It is important not to shoot yourself in the foot or be caught in a situation where your usefulness is underutilised as a result of the above noted perceptions.

Siobhan Robinson-Morris is an industrial relations and human resources consultant.