If you suspect that an HR disconnect is intensifying at your organization, you’re not alone. You’re also not without tools for mending it.

Despite your best intentions, sometimes HR becomes out of touch with the rest of the company.

Your HR team thinks everything is going great, but in fact, your employees are unsatisfied, aggrieved or disengaged.

If you suspect that an HR disconnect is intensifying at your organization, you’re not alone, and you’re not without tools for mending it.

To fully understand this issue, let’s explore:

  • The key warning sign that HR’s perception of your company doesn’t align with reality
  • How to confirm that HR disconnect is becoming a problem
  • What causes this issue and what’s at stake if it’s not resolved
  • How to fix your HR alignment problems

What’s the main symptom of an HR disconnect?

HR alignment problems affect companies in different ways. The first signs may be subtle, but the sooner you can identify them, the easier they will be to correct.

However, there’s one symptom that you should never ignore:

Your employees are hesitant to contact HR or have stopped altogether.

This is a huge warning sign that you and your employees aren’t on the same page anymore.

And the more your employees disregard HR when they need help, the more siloed your team becomes from the people you’re there to support.

How do you diagnose a misalignment between HR and employees?

Initially you might assume that silence from employees is a sign that things are going well and that your employees are feeling engaged and productive.

However, if you consistently fail to hear much from employees, the opposite may be true.

But how can you reliably confirm that the silence indicates a problem?

Here are some suggestions ordered from the simplest to most-involved:

  1. Read what employees are saying about your company online
  2. Follow up with new employees after onboarding
  3. Conduct employee pulse checks or surveys

1. Monitor the web for reviews.

Online reviews of your organization often come from the inside. If you haven’t been regularly monitoring them, you may find some opinions that surprise you.

The most popular sites for these include:

  • Glassdoor
  • Indeed
  • Careerbliss
  • Jobitorial
  • Yelp

Is there a recurring negative sentiment among the comments that you find on these sites? If so, that may be enough to confirm your suspicions of HR misalignment.

2. Check in with new employees.

New employees usually get to know your company through HR or recruiting first, and then in their first few months, they experience your company for themselves.

Checking in with new hires multiple times within their first 90 days of employment can help you understand whether the real experience of working for your company is different from the way you present it during the hiring process.

Simply ask them how their experience is going, and then document the answers you collect to help you track any patterns showing misalignment.

3. Survey your employees.

Surveys can be a very useful diagnostic tool when you suspect an HR disconnect.

Even if you only conduct a full climate survey once every year or two, you can still send your employees a couple of questions per quarter, asking specifically about their interactions with HR.

For example, you could ask your employees to indicate their level of agreement with the following statement:

“I can go talk to HR if I have a question or problem.”

Be sure to respond to your employees when you survey them, as they will expect to hear back after providing you with their feedback.

What causes employee and HR disconnect issues?

The next step is to understand the root of the problem.

Here are some common causes that could be behind your employee and HR alignment issues.

1. Your employees don’t think of HR beyond its tactical role.

Sometimes employees view HR only as an administrative resource for hiring, terminations and benefits questions.

However, a strong HR department will have both tactical and strategic programs for employees.

2. They believe HR is pro-owner or pro-management.

HR usually spends a lot of time with the organization’s owners and senior leaders. Sometimes the rest of the workforce takes notice of this tendency and concludes that they aren’t approachable or must be pro-management at heart.

3. They don’t trust HR anymore.

HR is charged with initiating a lot of difficult conversations:

  • Change initiatives
  • Performance counseling
  • Terminations

Even slight miscommunication in these situations can break down trust (like an employee relations issue that wasn’t explained fully). If employees disagree with one of HR’s stances or actions, they sometimes stop trusting HR altogether.

Employees may also become wary of HR staff who have personal friendships outside of the department, making their impartiality less convincing.

When employees don’t feel they have someone to approach who is connected with the C-suite:

  • Morale suffers
  • Ideas don’t flow freely

When HR and employees are out of sync, the sentiment can eventually travel outside of your organization. This can negatively impact your recruiting efforts.

How do you repair an HR disconnect?

Now let’s focus on how you can fix your HR alignment problems. Here are a few solutions to try.

1. Get away from your desk and spend time with people.

The more you interact with employees on a regular basis, the more trust you can rebuild. When you take time to get to know people on a personal level, you may see new ways to positively impact the work environment in your role as an HR person.

This includes:

  • Understanding employee motivation
  • Learning their concerns and personal challenges
  • Hearing more diverse ideas to improve operational efficiencies
  • Enhancing your customer’s experience   

Just be sure to balance your time among employees to avoid appearing overly friendly with one group.

2. Check your approachability.

Make every effort to be welcoming and receptive when employees come to you. Even in situations that are challenging for you or involve conflict.

3. Avoid “checkbox” HR.

Don’t just cross an employee task off your list. Truly listen, engage and support your employees through the processes that may seem mundane to you.

For example, in an employee counseling circumstance, don’t just document issues. Show that you believe improvement is possible and help the employee and manager create a development plan.

4. Let people ask more questions, and be open to hearing feedback.

Host a lunch-and-learn or Zoom meeting around an issue you’re proactively discussing in HR. Invite employees to participate and ask lots of questions. Carefully consider their feedback and concerns.

5. Ensure employees understand their career path.

Build trust by helping employees see that they have a future at your organization. Let them know that you’re there to help them advance and grow.

6. Have HR conviction.

In difficult conversations, demonstrate your HR conviction, communicating that you care too much about the individuals involved and your organization to let it go unaddressed.

Operating from the right motivation and sharing your perspective with employees will help earn their trust and respect.

Summing it all up

Don’t let hesitancy to contact HR become the norm for your employees. Find out if it’s coincidence or true reluctance and learn what might be driving the divide.

Try implementing some of the solutions above. Over time, taking these actions will help you reestablish a healthy connection between your workforce and your HR department.

But you don’t have to stop there. Download our free e-book on the 7 most frequent HR mistakes and how to avoid them to learn how to anticipate and resolve more common HR issues.