Monday, November 01, 2010
Ethical and Behavioral Standards for HR Professionals
Let me share with you my thoughts on this topic. I also invite you to share yours by commenting below.
Maintain high professional and personal conduct
In the Philippines and in many parts of the world, HR is thought to be the guardians and enforcers of company policies. While I have always expressed that this should not be the sole responsibility of HR, they are still responsible. It is important therefore for all HR staff no matter what rank to demonstrate compliance to these policies. If HR is unable to model the way, how can we expect other employees to follow the rules?
Guardians of fairness
The question of whether HR should be pro-management or pro-employees keeps on popping up. Let me say that HR should be neither. I disagree with the idea that HR must maintain a balance between looking after management and employee interest. I believe that management interest is employee interest and employee interest is management interest. When decisions are made that does harm to one, it will also harm the other. I have seen this to be true several times. When this happens, It is HR's job to take a position and that position should be "pro-what's right." Sometimes taking this kind of position put a lot of risk in the HR practitioner's job security but HR practitioners should accept that part of the risk, otherwise they will not be able to embrace that important role of being the organization's conscience. There's one thing going for HR when they push for what is right and that's the law. Whether people perceive HR's position as favoring management or the employees, when HR points to the law, it's something that's hard dispute.
Position of confidence
In the process of carrying out its tasks, HR gets the privilege of knowing confidential information. HR is trusted not to divulge these to people who are not authorized to know. It should demonstrate a high degree of ethical standard keep such privileged information confidential. These information include, salaries, employees' medical records, disciplinary actions, confidential decisions and others.
HR is the only department that focuses mainly on people. While other departments engage their people more often than HR does, they are sadly more focused on the task and results delivery side of it. In the organization's effort to push for results, it is easy for people to develop conflicts. HR people should be capable of handling such issues without being partisan. HR's goal in this case should always be how people can resolve issues and work together more effectively and harmoniously. When I was an HR Director, quarreling parties often call me to listen their issues and ask me to put the other party in their place, so to speak. Unless a law or rule is broken, I always aim for reconciliation. Even when a rule is broken I still aim for reconciliation after suitable sanctions are made. HR Should hold the organization together, it should not be the source of divisiveness. I also believe that in order for HR to serve that role, the people inside HR should be able to model cohesiveness. When HR fails to do that, its ability to hold the organization together also declines.
It doesn't matter what position HR professionals hold in the department, I believe that they should be able to demonstrate leadership in the organization. When I say leadership in this regard, I mean constantly and consistently choosing to seek moral high ground. Because they are principled, they are able to demonstrate what Kouzes and Posner found to be the practices of exemplary leaders such as modeling the way in demonstrating commonly held values, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process and allowing others to challenge the process, enabling others and encouraging the heart. Leadership is all about influencing and inspiring others to choose a more productive attitude. When HR professionals become the source of negativity in the organization, they stop demonstrating leadership. One other thing that I would like to emphasize here is that HR practitioners should never use their position for inappropriate gain. When people see HR as corrupt, it loses its moral ascendancy to lead.
Ensuring law compliance
Since we are in the topic of laws and regulation, HR should strive to know all laws related to human resource management and ensure that the organization is complying. When the company's owner refuses to follow the law, HR should be able to give fair warning. If the owner despite all the warnings refuse to follow the law, I believe that HR should stand by moral principles and leave the company. This is a personal belief that I wish to share with fellow practitioners.
The HR practice is evolving. Any self respecting HR practitioner should know it and act on it. When HR practitioners fail to continue educating themselves, they get stuck in mediocrity. When they do, their organizations lose opportunities to increase returns on their human capital. IF you are an HR practitioner and you are not abreast with the latest goings on or not trying out or experimenting on new concepts, you should start considering updating yourself or moving out to another career that requires less dynamism.
Did I miss anything? Please add your own thoughts or comment on what I shared here.