Being an HR manager requires you to walk the fine line between absolute compliance with regulations and being an understanding, flexible human being. You understand that human situations can vary in a million different ways. There are accidents, gray areas, and unavoidable circumstances. Friendships, antipathy, conflict, and romance all happen unbidden and everyone handles this differently. On the other hand, the rules are the rules. Employee law from the government is absolute and company rules can be bent or changed only with extreme caution in order. It is a balancing act that some do naturally but everyone does carefully.
Human Resources – Binding Business and Humanity
The term Human Resources itself is a paradox. The title says clearly that you are expected to treat people like assets that are worth a certain amount of money and investment, though we all know that those assets are also human beings worthy of respect and freedom. The business world is aware of the paradox and HR managers are people who are precise enough to track the regulations and conform to them while treating each human experience as unique. Sometimes the best option is to help someone navigate the rules to avoid punishment for an unfortunate situation. Sometimes the right thing is to bring the hammer down and force someone to face the consequences of their actions. Knowing which situation is which is what makes a great HR manager.
Bridging the Gap
The problem is that business is hard and absolute. Money, inventory, and venues don’t have feelings and can be handled however the numbers say will be most profitable. It’s different with people and the factors that control them are softer than deciding how to spend a budget. Accounting allows you to abruptly move money from one account to another. Do that with people, and you tear families apart. Even the simplest HR decision like whether or not to allow desk personalization has a dozen concerns that should determine and influence the answer.
Denying personalization is bad for morale but there could be unforeseen health problems with more outside items brought in from homes and desks becoming harder to clean. What if the items are offensive to someone? What if they are valuable and lost or damaged? If you do allow personal decor, would it be better to have one or two blanket rules or allow flexibility but with a dozen tiny caveats and limitations? The job of HR is to bridge the gap between humanity and practicality in a way that both improves the company and is beneficial to the participants.
The Parent Analogy
Especially for younger employees, HR can also take on many of the traditionally parental roles. The responsibilities certainly compare. HR is there at the beginning of every new career and hiring experience, offering training and guidance on how to become a contributing employee in the company. After your new hires graduate from onboarding, HR is only involved in the unique places where home life and work life overlap and in moments of great need or emotion. Most employees don’t interact with HR unless they are planning a vacation, have trouble at home, are seeking further education, or have witnessed something upsetting that needs to be reported. Like a good parent, you offer guidance and help employees find appropriate solutions to their situations. You outline the most strategic ways to take time off, arrange for career building lessons, and make sure that company policies are promoting healthy home lives for employees.
Finding the Balance
While walking this tight rope between regulations and people is an incredible feat, some people do take to it like a fish to water. Keeping up with regulations and finding flexible solutions inside the rules is enjoyable and every life you make easier with the skills is the reward. When people are able to take their vacations, take care of their sick children, or improve their status because of your help, you know you have fulfilled your purpose as the glue that holds the hard facts of business and the soft reality of humans together in the business world.