Culture in the workplace is becoming the driving force of success. Our parent’s parents may see it as millennial culture demanding nap cubes or time off for emotional stress. However, that is not really the way people in the workplace see it. The issue is much more basic than that. Value. A person desires value at work, feeling as though they are an important part of an organization. Why are so many companies missing the mark on this? Why are qualified, successful people leaving, even though they are bringing home money and benefits?

While it’s easy to look at external factors, perhaps the development of positive company culture begins with Human Resources.  High performing businesses are seeing where HR is the driving factor in recruiting and maintaining talent. Some experts on in government talent management are calling for a renewed focus on HR as the key to attracting and retaining a qualified government workforce.

Most of us know HR as a stop along the way to a new job. You may interview with HR before you meet with a hiring manager, but after signing paperwork and ensuring your tax deductions are correct, most never encounter HR again – unless there is a problem.  HR has inherently become a reactive department more than a proactive department. When a person “does something wrong” or “may not be meeting expectations” – then HR gets involved. The same people overseeing your onboarding are now helping deliver your Performance Improvement Plan. That system of HR is missing the mark in proactively steering culture.

Many of the issues arising from employees are misunderstandings or misuse of company policy and procedures. But we see the first line of defense is the manager. HR is the subject matter expert—the one who knows these policies far better than a manager focused on driving sales (or other manner of work) does. When HR takes a role as a consultant around policies and procedures, they work alongside managers to help drive success rather than being the “go to person” for corrective action.

Essentially HR would be invested in employees, not just at the beginning and end of job, but to come alongside them through the duration of their tenure. Being proactive and ensuring employees understand the ins and outs of their role empowers greater success and is a wise use of company resources. Yet I’d argue most companies are not leveraging their HR in this way.

Contacting HR – Even When There Isn’t a Problem

In addition to a consultative role for policies and procedures, HR should be routinely conducting culture check-ins. Oftentimes, HR doesn’t know of a problem until it’s a problem. By proactively reaching out to employers, data can be analyzed to see where issues arise. You may be saying, “my company does a culture survey once a year” –  that’s a start. But once a year results may be too little, too late. If an employee has had culture issues for nine months, they may not stick around another two to conduct an anonymous survey. Culture check ins should be face-to-face, where employee remarks feel valued and understood. HR should have a mindset of driving positive culture and helping managers implement culture improvements routinely.

Perhaps if HR worked alongside managers and bosses, culture shifts would take place easily and seamlessly, in a way where all parties see positive outcomes. Employees would know their feedback was heard, discussed and taken seriously. When workers know their ideas are valued, their performance increases. The temptation to leave dissipates, because change is happening from all sides. HR becomes the piece woven through their time at work ,not just the check off site for W4s and tax deductions. A thriving, motivated, forward facing HR can have an immensely positive impact on culture and encourage employees that they are vital to the success of an organization. No nap pod needed.

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Jennifer Thorndyke is a wife and mom who enjoys intelligent conversation, strong coffee, and southern food.