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Where people insight and sensitivity come into employee engagement

I nearly choked! 

The irony was far too much for me.

The cause of my discomfort was an article with the headline, "We can't lose sight of the benefits of the HR function: people insight and sensitivity." Now, I don't know about you but insight and sensitivity are definitely not two of the 'benefits' that I associate with HR.

How much insight or sensitivity would you ascribe to a function that has Security escort people from the premises when they are made redundant? Or that enables a situation to arise where you are called to a meeting and, when you arrive early, you are greeted by a (non-HR) colleague who says, "Oh shame. Have you been called in for your redundancy meeting?"  No, people insight and sensitivity are definitely not something I have witnessed often in my dealings with HR.

Yet, nor do I think that they should be something that distinguishes HR.

Helpfulness 000007651555XSmall After all, how often do people actually deal with HR? The fact is that HR is generally a bureaucratic function. Their primary role is to set, maintain and enforce policy as regards the treatment of people. Think about your own experience. By and large it is your relationship with your manager and colleagues that shapes your day-to-day experience and how you feel about the organisation. Isn't it? So surely you would far rather see insight and sensitivity from them than from HR. And, of course, it is more important that you do.

So I am afraid that it is not just past experience that makes me choke at this headline. It is the perpetuation of the myth that HR is a function that looks after people. For me it reveals why HR has problems being taken seriously. Its focus is on rules, regulations and red-tape, and people insight and sensitivity do not - or only rarely - come into play. So, if you want HR to be taken seriously, you need to get over this self-satisfied delusion and start ensuring that people insight and sensitivity are an organisational responsibility that cover ALL your organisation's dealings with people, and stop seeing it as something that is unique to HR. 

Until you do, I am afraid that your efforts to improve employee engagement will never succeed.


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