I ask the question because HR professionals can typically see what’s not working within companies, but they can’t always see what’s wrong with HR itself. HR professionals can also be guilty of having the same outdated thoughts and behaviors that we accuse employees and managers of having. Do we empathize with employee situations? Are we truly open-minded and do we listen to everyone, not just the people we think need to be heard? When was the last time an employee came to HR and said, “I need to talk about an accommodation,” and you thought to yourself, “But they seem fine”? Has an employee come to you with concerns about a “superstar performer” and you let it slide because you didn’t want to rock the boat? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then perhaps it’s time for some introspection.
According to Empathy: DE&I’s Missing Piece, a report released as part of SHRM’s Together Forward @ Work initiative aimed at addressing racial inequities in the workplace, more than one-quarter of respondents (27%) said their workplace did not provide opportunities for employees to openly discuss issues without fear of penalty, punishment, and retaliation, or they were unsure if their workplace provided those opportunities.
When employees fear communicating with employers, especially HR professionals, their voices and concerns will not be heard. Building an inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible workplace entails hearing all voices, even those in underrepresented populations. Many companies are spending time, money, and effort to build inclusive workplaces, and HR professionals will be expected to lead by example. However, if we don’t truly change our own mindset, the success of those programs may be called into question.
These situations affect not only employees but also the recruitment of talent. Studies have shown that candidates are looking for inclusive environments and will make employment choices based on a company’s commitment to inclusion. With the increased use of social media, candidates can gain information on a company more easily than ever before. Sites like Glassdoor, Facebook, and others give employees an opportunity to share their experiences and reflect on their employment with companies. HR professionals can have a profound impact on an employee’s perspective if we are truly open-minded, engage in active listening, and show empathy.
So, I ask the question again: Does HR need to look in the mirror? If we want to be the role model for change, then the answer should be yes.
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