by Flex HR

HR Experts Explain How to Combat a Bad Reputation with Employees

Human Resources (HR) is constantly stereotyped as the bad guy reporting to the company, and not in support of the workers. Dissimilar management teams view the role of HR very differently. The typical role carved out for HR ranges from administrative only, to overseeing the employee lifecycle, outlining company policies, talent acquisition, payroll and on up to strategic partner. This said, employee interface is inherent in HR’s role.

HR Reputation Management


As a strategic partner, HR provides input on what actions are taken that will impact employees, and how those actions are implemented. Both roles are important. The “what” needs to be a business decision. The “how” needs to be heavily weighted by HR best practices and in the best interests of all employees.

When HR plays an administrative only role, the only way for HR to ingratiate itself to employees is to emphasize empathy and caring in all that they do. The what and sometimes the how are given to HR to execute, so the only variable is the demeanor of the HR representative while performing their assigned duties.

Where the HR role has strategic content, the opportunity to impact employee perceptions of HR increases from just empathy and caring in the following ways:

  1. Ensuring that short- and long-term people factors are considered during the decision- making process. The solution must ultimately be driven by business factors; therefore, HR must be able to make its case for the “how” in full consideration of the “why” and “what”.
  2. Once the decision is made, HR’s role shifts to the “how”. Precedent from prior similar actions need to be considered. If this review differs, HR needs to ensure that those differences are clearly articulated and communicated to employees effectively. No matter what the action, effective communications include written communications, team meetings, and most important of all, interactions with direct supervisors. Special consideration needs to be placed on ensuring that all supervisors are fully briefed on the “why” behind the actions being taken. The supervisor is the most important link in the communications chain, so their understanding and support are vital.
  3. HR works with leadership to establish the “people goals” of the action being taken. These goals need to be verbalized and reinforced as important outcomes of the actions being taken. These goals need to be measurable so at the end of the day, you can determine if the goal was achieved or not.
  4. HR oversees the operational decisions being made as it impacts employees. All legal considerations need to be factored into the actions taken, and all steps must be legally compliant.
  5. HR ensures that each individual employee affected is treated fairly with dignity and respect. To accomplish this task, HR needs to have relationships with employees throughout the organization, particularly with the influencers among the employee population. The influencers will know and can communicate to HR (directly or through their supervisors) any activities or individual behaviors that are not consistent with the employee relations goals established by management with the advice of HR.
  6. And finally, HR leads a post-mortem on the change actions to document lessons learned to ensure that future actions are informed by lessons learned from earlier actions.

Actions that negatively impact employees are never easy. But a strong HR team, grounded in strategy, can lessen the impact on the business and its employees. Where this is the case, the view of leadership and employees of HR can be dramatically improved.

Philip A. Davis
Senior Vice President
Flex HR, LLC