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HR leaders must think strategically, simplify processes and listen

Skye has been a human-resources manager for one year. She has been a disaster. She is a glorified HR clerk who manages the necessary hiring, performance appraisal and other unreadable forms. Her email responses are often late and incomplete.

I have taught HR for about 30 years and have held several HR-related positions. In my experience, there are three big ways to reduce problems with Skye-like HR managers.

First, all HR managers should think strategically. They should be part of the executive suite of all major companies. They don’t just push paper. If there is a need to open a new store, HR should be in the forefront to analyze the local employment market, set competitive pay and hire the best available individuals. HR should analyze how its plans and programs have succeeded in relation to the strategic objectives of the company.

Second, all HR managers should simplify hard-to-understand processes. The paper-pushing traditional view is represented by the evil Catbert in the Dilbert cartoons. Catbert’s goal is to make life as hard for employees as possible. HR should make the hiring and performance appraisal processes as simple to understand as possible.

For example, the company intranet site for hiring processes should show clear steps. If a manager needs to find more information, he or she can click onto a step and find more detailed instructions, or contact the HR manager directly.

The third HR recommendation is active listening. This includes not only responding to emails within a decade but analyzing and responding to problems.

(HR managers often have earned prominent designations from the Society for Human Resource Management, such as “certified professional” or “senior certified professional.” Questions asked in the certification process focus on employees who come to the HR office with a problem.)

Promoting strategy, increasing simplicity to bring about understanding and listening to employee needs are the heart of a lot of what good HR managers should do.

Gundars Kaupins is professor of management, College of Business and Economics at Boise State University. This column appears in the Sept. 21-Oct. 18, 2016, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on human resources and workforce development. Click here for the e-edition (subscription required).