This article was updated on August 22, 2018.
In many organizations, the HR department acts as the eyes and ears of the workforce. They're supposed to know what employees are thinking and feeling. Businesses can then use the HR perspective to address issues when they occur and understand what employees enjoy about their work.
The Importance of Boundaries
If HR is going to be tuned into what the workforce is thinking, they need to be building rapport with employees. But this can be a tricky subject. HR wants employees to confide in them while, at the same time, they want to respect work boundaries. At every level of the organization, HR should be viewed as objective and impartial. So, how can HR professionals come across as friendly and build rapport without being seen as friends? Here are five things to consider.
1. Set Expectations About the Role of HR
While HR departments have similar functions, it's reasonable to assume every firm views the role of HR a little differently. HR departments would be well served to explain their role during the hiring process and orientation. This can help employees understand how to best work with their HR leaders.
2. Be Approachable and Authentic
Contrary to how some media outlets might portray HR departments, HR professionals are human too. It's perfectly acceptable to let employees see the fun and human side to HR. Employees may be more willing to open up and talk to people they have a connection with.
3. Have a Personal Social Media Policy
In today's technology-driven workplaces, it's important to have a personal philosophy on who you will connect with on social media channels. This is different from an organizational policy. There are several factors to consider such as the best way to handle disciplinary action if you're connected with an employee. HR pros need to ultimately decide the best way to handle social media requests from employees.
4. Don't Be the Last One to Leave a Gathering
Whether it's coffee in the afternoon or drinks after work, employee gatherings can build relationships and start conversations. HR is often invited, and there's nothing wrong with making an appearance. But HR leaders need to be keenly aware of the balance between stopping by and overstaying their welcome.
5. Address Confusion Directly
It's possible that an employee will misinterpret the role of HR. Don't delay or be subtle about addressing these types of situations. Have a private conversation with the employee and explain your role and boundaries that must be in place. They will likely appreciate the upfront honesty and respect.
HR professionals need to create relationships at every level of the organization. Their roles depend on it. So, have some fun and spend time building rapport with employees. It's absolutely possible to do so and still maintain objectivity.