Discovery Surveys, Inc.
Specializing in Employee Opinion and Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Improving the Workplace

By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.

1 out of 2 human resource professionals believe their employees don't respect them.

Amy started as an HR Generalist 8 years ago in a small consulting firm. She reported directly to the Vice President of Human Resources. Amy is a very easygoing and friendly person with a great sense of humor. She quickly gained the respect and confidence of employees throughout the company. She became the organization’s eyes and ears regarding the hearts and minds of employees. Her boss relied on her inside knowledge and informed perspective about what employees were really thinking and feeling.

Her boss recently retired and Amy was extremely pleased to be promoted to his position as Vice President. In addition, reporting relationships within the organization changed so that she now reports directly to the President. She is very excited about this opportunity to become more of a true business partner.

But there is a problem. Employees now view her as part of senior management rather than “one of them.” They no longer openly confide in her. Many no longer even trust her.

This has put her in a precarious position. Her value to the President is her ability to understand employees. But she no longer can provide this perspective.


For many years, the mantra among Human Resource professionals has been: "We need to take a seat in the executive board room and become more business partners with senior management rather than just advocates for employees."

Unfortunately, the more HR professionals wear their senior management hats, the less effective they can be as a confidant of employees.



  1. Make Certain that HR Professionals Are Able to Straddle the Line

    If HR professionals spend all day attending endless meetings with other senior managers, they will eventually lose touch with the workforce. Make certain they have the opportunity to be actively involved in listening to employees.

  2. Consider Leaving the Downsizing to the Financial Folks

    If downsizing is primarily a financial decision, then doesn't it make sense that the financial staff should be responsible for carrying it out? Why compromise the credibility of your HR professionals with employees? Do you want your employees cringing for fear of their jobs when HR folks walk the halls?

  3. Maintain a Staff of Local HR Professionals

    In an effort to reduce costs, some organizations have reduced or eliminated HR field staff. The few HR professionals that remain are cooped up in a corporate cubicle well removed from the day-to-day operations of the organization. If they are really to understand the skills, attitudes, and inclinations of employees, HR professionals need to be out in the field interacting with them.

  4. Go Easy on "Self Service"

    Many organizations have automated or outsourced benefits administration, payroll, questions about personnel policies/procedures, and even employee counseling. Consequently, no one in the organization has a good handle on the needs and concerns of employees. Automated functions should complement not replace human resource employees.


To be a valuable business partner, human resource professionals need to maintain their day-to-day perspective on the views and concerns of employees. Make certain they spend ample time out in the field interacting with them. Amy is working hard to build back the credibility she has lost with employees. She is reaching out to employees in a systematic way by asking them how she can best meet their needs and support them.


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