Workers/ friendly HR department stand in a group smiling while one of them outstretches his hand in welcoming gesture.
Image: © fizkes/Stock.adobe.com

What do workers feel comfortable telling HR?

16 Sep 2021

Careers website Zety asked professionals what they would feel comfortable reporting to HR in an effort to pin down workers’ attitudes towards their HR colleagues.

Human resources departments exist within companies so big firms don’t lose sight of what keeps their operations running smoothly day to day. The employees who run the business often need guidance to run themselves. That’s where HR comes in.

In an ideal world, HR acts as a buffer between employees and their work-related problems and concerns, many of which pertain to fellow staff members. It is crucial for well-functioning workplaces to have a HR department that employees feel comfortable relying on for support.

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Careers website Zety surveyed 949 US workers via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk in an attempt to find out how effective HR departments are and how much trust the average employee had in them.

The survey asked employees’ opinions about HR and whether they’d report specific situations. The scenarios ranged from awkward problems like workplace affairs to criminal issues like theft of company property.

Unfortunately for HR personnel, workers didn’t seem to trust HR as a whole. In fact, on the question of whether they thought HR was trustworthy or not, only half of respondents said it was.

Infographic: Zety.

Infographic: Zety.

Most said they would not disclose to HR if they were going through personal problems such as a bereavement or divorce.

Furthermore, a majority indicated they would not report work-related problems to HR. Some of the scenarios listed were slightly less serious than others, for example: 91pc said they wouldn’t report a co-worker wearing a MAGA hat to work.

But 63pc said they wouldn’t report interpersonal challenges with another colleague to HR, while 57pc said they wouldn’t report challenges with their manager. As for criminal issues, 37pc of people wouldn’t report being sexually harassed at work and 43pc wouldn’t report discrimination.

These results are quite damning; a major responsibility for HR is to deal with employees’ concerns on these matters. So why don’t employees trust HR?

For starters, 69pc of respondents did not believe that HR takes the side of the employee. However, many of the top five complaints did feature two employees against one another.

The most reported problems were seeing co-workers drunk at work, discrimination, co-workers with body odour, co-workers viewing pornography and theft.

Infographic: Zety.

Infographic: Zety.

Infographic: Zety.

Infographic: Zety.

Infographic: Zety.

It’s not all bad news for HR departments. The survey showed that employees do rely on HR for financial advice. It also found that staff will go to their HR colleagues if they think they will take a hit in their pay packet. About 82pc said they would report problems with their payroll and benefits to HR. They also depend on HR for legal advice, résumé advice and advice on promotions.

Infographic: Zety.

Infographic by Zety.

Infographic by Zety.

Infographic: Zety.

Perhaps the best way for HR departments to earn workers’ trust on the more holistic matters is to become better at communicating what it is HR does. Transparency and responding to complaints in a timely and effective manner is also important when it comes to helping people see the value of their company’s HR departments.

Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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