Are HR managers modern-day corporate custodians?

July 23rd , 2014 Yasmin Taj 

In recent times, it can be seen that the HR department of any organisation exudes a certain kind of power. Whenever they are around, they have an aura that makes employees behave in a certain way. They are privy to an employee’s every detail and are also very close to the top management. So, is HR getting too powerful? 

Ritu Kochhar, director – HR, Becton, Dickinson & Co (India) agrees, “Today, the HR function is working very closely with businesses to gain and deliver the competitive advantage in the marketplace and hence, employees perceive HR function as a ‘powerful’ entity today.” 

 Sunil Goel, MD, GlobalHunt adds, “Employees do not fear HR, but they respect their presence as it has been clear that their observations will have a due consideration on careers in the short- and long-terms.” 

Kiranmai Pendyala, corporate VP, HR (Greater Asia), AMD agrees that HR does exude power in organisations these days. Pendyala says, “HR dons the hat of the ‘compliance and statutory labour law guardian’. In a country like India, where we are spoilt by freedom, have forgotten to draw the line, and are willing to play with the law, it is a huge responsibility for HR to de-risk, and future-proof the organisations.”

According to Nishchae Suri, partner and head, people and change at KPMG in India, HR plays the role of a conscience keeper in the organisation and it is in keeping with this spirit that it assumes the position of a watchdog. “However, HR must carry out its duties and functions in a manner that instils confidence and not fear among the people of an organisation. The type of culture that HR defines determines how an individual feels about coming to work every day. An enablement culture encourages individuals to leverage their unique strengths, in turn allowing them to function out of performance orientation. However, the responsibility cannot alone be shouldered by HR; all stakeholders must commit to the development of such an organisational culture,” he states. Gaurika Tandon, an HR professional feels that it is rather strange that employees put their guards up when they see HR people around. “I believe that the relationship between an HR person and employee should be transparent as opposed to being driven by fear,” she expresses. 

Similarly, Kochhar points out, “The ideal relationship that HR and employees can have is that of partners, together delivering the business results,” she adds. As per Pendyala, fear can only be a short-term measure to create or protect the needed practices. Hence, though the HR people are the conscience-keepers and watchdogs of the organisation, they can still become your friends and confidantes and be the perfect bridge between you and the management.