Recovering from a bad rep - how you can fix your HR image

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We all inherit things we don’t necessarily want – your mum’s frizzy hair, your dad’s habit of biting his fingernails – but what about the unwanted reputation of the HR professional who came before you?

If your predecessor ruled with an iron fist, that reputation could prove hard to shake. Here, one HR manager explains how she completely changed her employees’ past perceptions.

“People used to hate coming to the HR office because they thought they were going to get punished,” Alice Lesmana told HRM. “It’s improved now.”

“Employees hated it before because, although the last manager was very good, she came across as stern and strict,” explained the Vancouver-based leader.

“I’m more balanced,” she continued, “so I can be strict if I have to be but most of the time I’m there to support them. However, getting employees to realize tactics had changed was no easy feat and repairing the damaged relationship certainly didn’t happen overnight.

The personal touch

Lesmana says HR managers who want to build a good rapport with their employees should strive to connect on a personal level.

“I know every single employee here by name and by ID number,” she said. “There are like 400 of them but it lets them know you see them as an individual.” Lesmana insists that even the smallest thing, like being able to use an employee’s name when you thank them, makes a bigger impact than you realize.

“Ask employees how they’re doing or what’s going on with their family,” urged Lesmana, “but make sure to remember whatever it is then ask them how it went or what happened.”

“When you talk to employees, be caring – that’s the most important thing,” she continued.

Flexible but firm 

Being flexible but firm is key to building respect and improving the relationship HR has with employees, says Lesmana.

For example, employees may come in and ask for the next day off despite having skipped the mandatory two weeks’ notice. Lesmana says if she can authorize it she will but from that point on, employees will have to follow the rules.

“I can instil discipline when I have to,” affirms Lesmana, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bend to help your employees when possible.

“It used to be that [employees] hated coming into HR because they thought it could only be something bad – I don’t like that perception of myself  because it sets the wrong tone,” explained Lesmana.

“We’re supposed to be neutral party,” she continued; a go-between who acts in the best interests of everyone – whether they’re a frontline employee or a high-level exec.

“At the end of the day the key role of HR is to keep that positive relationship with everybody and keep that positive energy,” said Lesmana.  “Building that trust and building that relationship is so important because you can only achieve great results with a team effort.”
  • DeeDee C on 2/4/2015 12:33:10 PM

    I have been in that same situation more than once where the predecessor was mean and rude, and I have done the same things Ms. Lesmana said and it really does work! I have the respect of the team and they know that I am here to be fair, firm and consistent. They know that I want them to enjoy their job and that they can ask questions without any fear of being looked at as stupid. I can have fun with them and they appreciate me for that. It makes me feel good too. Plus, when I do "catch" them doing something wrong and they realize they have been "caught", my approach is to treat them in a respectful way and show them what they are doing. They are usually very apologetic and they correct themselves immediately. And, bribing them with candy in the HR office doesn't hurt either! :)

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