Whose Side Are You On, Anyway?
"Do you consider yourself to be on the employees' side or on the company's side?" From the way they asked the question, I already knew the answer they wanted. They had a previous HR manager who had, according to the executive team at the interview table, always ONLY advocated for employees. "We need someone to advocate for management," the CEO said.
When HR is done right, there aren't two sides. When HR is done right, you are supporting the company with people strategy and operations. You work for the company. AND. The best strategy to support the company with people practices is to empower employees to be successful. This means that HR is going to promote values such as: ensuring that employees' work has meaning, that they feel valued, that they feel like they are progressing. You will invest in professional development, succession planning, fair pay and benefits. And you will do all this because you are supporting the company.
There doesn't need to be a hostile divide between management and employees. Times when there are truly competing interests are rare. Think about it: addressing performance issues is a matter of giving the employee feedback to improve. The goal is to get better. If the employee has better performance, the result is that the employee improves their marketable skills, is potentially eligible for promotion and pay raises (inside or outside the company), experiences higher levels of confidence and satisfaction. Even if the employee eventually leaves, they leave with improved skills. Think about what would happen if when someone sees your company name on the resume of an applicant, they think: "Oh that's a great company. Their employees have great skills and know what they are doing." You'd be an employer of choice. You'd have quality people seeking out your company for employment, internships and other opportunities.
Make no mistake, HR works for the company. And. HR promotes people strategies that support employees' success, engagement and happiness, because it's the best way to support the company. It's not either/or or us/them. We can do this together, without divides.