Associate Director, Michael Page Hong Kong.
‘Employee engagement’ can break down barriers between staff and human resources practitioners
I am just starting my career in HR and I am finding it a bit bewildering. I have no problem dealing with the administration side of things, but I have difficulty engaging with non-HR staff, who mostly have more experience at the company and treat me with a level of distrust and condescension. Is there any way I can break down the barriers and show them I am on their side? I have asked my manager about this, but she says this can only come with time put into the job.
Many organisations in recent years have become more aware of the importance of “employee engagement” (EE) and we, as HR recruiters, have seen a lot of the larger corporations require candidates with solid EE experience, which is not just about dealing with staff, but also actual experience in activities that bring workers together, from organising company or social events to talent management or development and even handling staff disputes.
The reason why companies have started doing this is simple - it helps to attract, retain and develop talent, which will lead to success in business.
So back to your question, when you’re new to an organisation, especially in the HR department, there isn’t a shortcut to successful staff engagement, if you don’t fully understand the company’s culture and internal policies.
Think of yourself as a non-HR worker. All of a sudden someone new is asking about your needs and the support you want from the company. Your first reaction would also be sceptical. Instead, try a different approach by first studying employee profiles and learning what sort of EE programmes are available internally, then you can show what you can offer the existing staff and start communicating with them.
Don’t feel defeated if you can’t rope in senior staff on your first attempt, because it takes time to build trust. People who have been with an organisation for a long time tend to think they know it all, so someone new to HR should stay humble and learn from them about past practices.
But one thing you need to remember is that while you want to show staff you are on their side, at the end of the day you are a professional, so integrity is paramount. Don’t fall into a trap by neglecting company benefits or over-promising what you can offer, or else you could easily lose your credibility.
There are many courses or seminars available on the market these days for you to strengthen your interpersonal skills or get new ideas in EE, but remember your biggest assets are always your personality, attitudes to work and ethics. Be genuine, empathic and helpful and your colleagues will love you, so there is no need to rush. Good luck!