You know your HR department as the people who hired you, the people who give you gobs of paperwork to fill out, and the people who might fire you if you're underperforming or the business needs a change. As such, many people feel like avoiding HR is the best path to success—stay off their radar and all will be good.
However, did you know that your HR department can help employees who need career development and help with so much more? Your HR department exists as more than the policing, systematizing arm of management you may have considered them in the past.
Here are ten reasons for stopping by your HR manager's office today.
You may have heard that HR is focused on helping the business succeed, and not on career help for individual employees. This is true, but the business won't succeed if there aren't good employees, and good employees want to move forward in their careers.
Your HR manager can often help you map out the path to your ultimate goal. If you want to be the CFO, they can help you identify areas where you are weak and areas where you are strong, and help direct you down career paths. As an added bonus, when the senior leadership team says, “We need someone to do X,” if you've told your HR person that's something you're interested in, your name is more likely to come up.
Managing Your Manager
Not every manager is great for every employee. Whether you've got a manager you just don't click with or can be a micro-manager, your HR department can help.
Don't complain about your manager. Instead, ask what you can do to make your relationship with them better. (Your HR manager may know the secrets to success of other employees.) Here's a suggested opening phrase: “Jane and I seem to clash a lot. Can you give me some tips on how to get along better?”
Does your company offer tuition reimbursement? If you don't know the answer to that question, head to HR and ask. Many companies and organizations offer this perk—especially if the degree or certification you're seeking is something that can help the company directly.
If you're an accountant, asking the company to pay for your master's degree in art history probably won't fly except at companies that provide assistance for any college coursework. But, if you want to ask for tuition assistance for review classes for your CPA, there's a good chance your employer will make money available.
If you're not in need of a new degree, but want to improve skills, ask about certification classes or even massive open online courses (MOOCs) that can help you fill your knowledge gaps.
Changing a Performance Rating
Was your last performance appraisal accurate? Most of the time, HR is going to side with your manager—your manager sees your day to day work and HR oversees numerous employees. But, if you feel there was a genuine mistake in your rating, talk to HR.
Come to the discussion with solid evidence of your performance, not just a complaint that the review is not fair.
Your HR manager will look over your review and compare it with your peers' reviews and your prior reviews. If the HR person feels you have a case, they will talk with your manager.
This may seem counter-intuitive: Your HR department doesn't want you to leave and leaving is the only reason why you might need to update your resume, right? Wrong. If you're applying for membership in a professional society, looking at an internal promotion, or want to be accepted to graduate school, your resume is a helpful tool.
Additionally, if you are laid off, sometimes your former HR department will provide help with your resume. Just ask because the worst your HR manager will say is no.
HR managers are not therapists, priests, or lawyers, so don't expect free therapy or confidential advice from them. (Although, do ask to keep things confidential if it's important to you. Your HR manager should say, “I can't keep this confidential” if they can't. If you complain that your boss is sexually harassing you, for example, your HR manager is required by law to investigate.)
But, if you're struggling in your marriage or drowning in a sea of debt, your HR manager can help direct you toward an employee assistance program (EAP).
The EAP number is probably on the company website, but feel free to ask HR.
Do you or a family member have health problems? Are you or your spouse pregnant? Head to HR. If you start missing work because of migraines but don't say anything, you could get fired for violating attendance policies, but if you come to HR, you can fill out the paperwork and seek legal protection.
Your problem might fall under the Americans With Disabilities Act or the Family Medical Leave Act. With both, you need to ask for help. Don't assume your manager will automatically know the reason for your absences qualifies you for protection. Remember, these laws often protect your family members as well, like if you need time to take care of a seriously ill parent or relative.
Some big companies have anonymous tip lines for any violations you may see; others have a designated person with whom you can talk to. But you can always walk in and talk to HR about this as well. You can report anything from safety to securities violations to your HR department. They'll set an investigation in motion.
Managing Your Employees
If you manage employees, your career success depends on their career success. If you want help knowing how to manage without being overbearing, how to discipline fairly, and how to get the best results from your team, ask your HR manager.
Your HR manager may provide coaching to managers directly, or they may refer you to a management class or consultant. Take the referral. The training class, consulting engagement or MOOC are worth your time.
Help You Navigate the Law
You don't want to confuse HR managers with employment law attorneys, but they should have a good grasp of basic employment law. If a coworker complains that her boss is acting creepy, you can go to HR for advice and report sexual harassment.
If you have an employee who threatens to sue you, report it immediately—even if you're sure they are just blowing off steam. Don't let legal problems build. HR has the resources to help guide you, and they know when to call in attorneys.
The Bottom Line
While HR will always have paperwork for you to fill out, don't forget that they are there to help the company succeed. That means that HR knows that the individual employees also need to succeed. Have a chat and see if they can help you help your career soar.