Dear Workforce How does HR avoid confusion about its role regarding labor relations and employee relations

What role should our HR department play in both labor relations and in employee relations? Our HR department oversees both functions, which raises confusing questions about where its loyalties lie.

September 7, 2011

Dear Conflicted:

This combination of seemingly disparate functions is easier to understand if one starts from the premise of HR's role, which is to create better business incomes via a talented, focused, fired-up, capably led workforce.

Granted, the presence of a third party in the midst of the employment relationship frequently introduces an unwelcome and adversarial aspect to the equation. Yet it pays to remember that we in HR are with dealing with this third party because the relationship with employees somehow got mishandled in the first place.

As an HR professional, your loyalties are to the shareholders (or other owners) who invest in and pay for the business enterprise. Your charge: See to it that the organization's "people practices," programs and strategies are competitively superior, exerting a positive effect on business results every day. You are not there to "screw the union" or go soft on nonunion employees. Rather, you must be viewed as being "pro-people," including those people who happen to be customers and shareholders.

The workforce needs to have the best talent, tools and training we can muster. The fact that we in HR are called upon to deal directly with some employees and indirectly with others (in certain matters) is annoying and a little inefficient, but by no means insurmountable.

Success will be best ensured by keeping ourselves and all our employees focused on customer needs. Companies such as FedEx and the Pebble Beach Co. excel at this on a daily basis, and it pays off handsomely for their customers and shareholders alike. All of us in HR should try to emulate them and companies like them.

SOURCE: Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette, co-authors, Contented Cows Give Better Milk, May 4, 2006.

LEARN MORE: Please read Four Ways to Help Boards of Directors. Also, How HR Balances Customer Demands.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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