Too Little, Too Late: Why People Look to HR as a Last Resort

HR can be a dirty job sometimes. And by dirty I mean you’re often tasked with cleaning up other people’s mess.

That’s most evident when a manager wants to fire an employee or executives are planning a reorganization and call on you at the very last minute for assistance. How convenient.

HR's true value isn’t coming in as a last resort, but providing expertise at a strategic level Click To Tweet

Essentially, they expect you to do the difficult work as if your HR certification came with a magic wand. Sure, you’ll come to the rescue, but you’re not a miracle worker. The company will still have to live with the consequences of calling on HR too late.

SEE ALSO: How organizational agility makes HR more strategic

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize your true value as an HR professional isn’t coming in as a last resort, but rather in providing expertise at a strategic level so last-minute crises don’t occur.

How HR Handles Firing

The Apprentice may have made firing someone a glamorous thing, but you know it can be an uncomfortable situation, and in most cases, it can be avoided.

Firing someone is difficult enough and should be the last resort. But when a manager calls HR late in the process, it doesn’t make it easier for any of the parties involved. If the manager properly documented everything and followed company procedures, it’s not a big problem, but that’s often not the case, according to Roshelle Pavlin, a strategic HR consultant.

Getting HR involved early makes the entire process smoother … employees are treated with respect and not blindsided by the decision.

“Often people make decisions emotionally without having gone through the proper process,” Pavlin explained. “When things aren’t done properly, you end up in a situation where the person wants to file a lawsuit or submit a claim to the Department of Labor, or a myriad of different things. That’s the worst-case scenario if HR isn’t involved up front. But other little things can happen as well, like the person goes on social media and starts saying negative things about the company because they felt they were not treated right.”

Of course, the best scenario is not getting to the point where a manager wants to fire an employee in the first place. Pavlin says when HR is involved early, it can make sure the employee is in the right job for their skill set or given the tools they need to be successful at the job.

“It costs a company a lot more money to fire somebody than it does to have the people that they already have on staff working at their best capacity,” she added.

If termination is necessary, getting HR involved early makes the entire process smoother for everyone: HR doesn’t have to scramble for documentation, managers have support and evidence for termination, and employees are treated with respect and not blindsided by the decision.

The Right Way to Reorganize

When a company goes through a reorganization, there’s a massive amount of change: departments are restructured, resources are reallocated, and new strategies are implemented. In many cases, HR is left out the decision-making, but left to integrate the plan and communicate change to a workforce on edge.

A McKinsey report notes: “We have seen that when HR is not clearly established as a mutually supportive partner with others in the transformation, organizations tend to struggle. The most significant risk with HR is to involve it in the transformation process only after decisions with people implications have already been made.”

Organizations struggle when HR is not established as a partner in transformation Click To Tweet

Another McKinsey study found that only 23 percent of reorganizations are deemed successful, and many companies end up undoing a lot of the changes they made.

Pavlin says that when HR has a seat at the table of reorganization, it can see the overall picture and make connections. For example, if one department needs to cut 20 people and another needs to add more people, HR can make the connection and suggest retraining workers from one department and redeploy them to the other.

Taking a Strategic Approach

The only way HR can be brought in earlier in these situations and add real value is if it has a strategic role in organizations.

Unfortunately, HR teams are still mired in tactical tasks. One report shows that the typical HR department still spends about 60 percent of its time and resources on transactional and operational HR instead of strategic purposes.

One way to help with the shift is empowering managers and employees with skills, information, and tools to facilitate their own development and resolve problems together. This is one of the core principals of organizational agility, which requires managers to be more hands-on in driving development.

When HR leaders don’t have to be a mediator between managers and employees, they can focus more on their strategic role. This also helps managers and employees have high-quality conversations that lead to improved trust and engagement.

When HR takes on a strategic role, it benefits everyone. Click To Tweet

When HR takes on a strategic role, it benefits everyone. It helps companies avoid problems and get better results, rather than coming in late to clean up a mess.

Strengthen your whole team with
Real-Time Feedback

Get Started Today