I’m tired of HR getting push to the corner of the executive suite meetings.  I get to see firsthand on a daily basis about how effective HR departments (or even CEOs, CFOs, or other company leaders) who recognize the importance of personally connecting with employees and helping employees develop, are more profitable organizations with reduced litigation costs.  Full disclosure, I developed (i.e., stole) many of these ideas after hearing Gary Vaynerchuk talk about how he values HR so much that he is not just the CEO of VaynerMedia, but he is the head of HR as well.  This Friday’s Five focuses on five reasons why HR needs to be a more critical role in your company:

1. It does not matter what your title or job is – CEO, CFO, HR, or even pilot – you still must have a personal touch.

A few years ago, I took my son to the Red Bull Air Races.  We had a great day watching the pilots racing over the shores of Mission Bay in San Diego.  My son was young, and I debated attending a meet-and-greet with the pilots put on by Red Bull.  The fact that Red Bull put this event on shows that they understand personal relationships in the business context.  So I drove my four year old son to Fox Field east of San Diego to see what it was all about.  Upon arriving, many of the pilots were standing next to their airplanes and had taken down the rope they could have used to protect their planes (and themselves) from the public.  We were able to actually meet most of the pilots, talk to them, and even take pictures with them.  Here were pilots that are some of the best pilots in the world, Kirby Chambliss, Nigel Lamb, and Paul Bonhomme, and they were connecting with fans.  The pilots we met, took pictures with, and spoke to became my son’s (and my) most favorite competitors in the air races.  Still to this day, we still talk about this event, and when we see the air races on TV we are supporting the pilots we met and spoke with.  Gary Vaynerchuk calls it the Ricky Henderson effect, I refer to it as the Nigel Lamb effect (picture of my son and Nigel to the right).

These pilots probably never expected that to be a great pilot that they needed to know how to talk to kids and the public.  But it is this skill that differentiates these pilots from those flying cargo planes.  Plus, they were investing time into making the air races more popular, which equals more profit in the long run.

2. Personal understanding and connections cannot be faked.

It is also important to note that we could easily see which pilots actually liked the meet-and-greet, and the pilots who were only doing it because they had to.  This is a skill that cannot be faked.  If an organization tries to fake the personal aspect of HR, every employee will easily see through this hypocrisy.  It is better to simply not spend the time and money to pretend caring about employees, skip this step, and at least not be viewed as a hypocritical company.

3. Treating employees fairly and on a personal level will reduce litigation.

I’ve written about this before and even though I don’t have any empirical data to prove it, I’m sure Steve Jobs created litigation costs for Apple in the way he treated employees.  To be clear, there is nothing illegal about being a jerk to employees, but most employees don’t understand this.  If an employee feels disrespected they want to get even, and to get even with the company, they will file a lawsuit – meritorious or not.  Plus, with increased turnover, employers are likely to have increased employment litigation.

4. Hard skills are only part of the equation.

It is important for an organization to recognize the A-players who create discontent and chaos in the company are not worth the cost.  These type of employees will eventually bring the entire organization down.  Employees don’t want to deal with assholes, no matter how great the assholes are at their job.  Eventually (this might not be immediate, but will definitely occur over time) the other A employees who like being on a team and being treated with respect will leave

5. HR should be more than filling out paperwork and providing parking cards.

I would argue that a good HR department should delegate task such as providing new hire paperwork or tracking employee’s down if they have not signed the employee handbook.  While the policies and documentation are critical, HR must be viewed as more than the department or person that is responsible for enforcing the policies, making sure paperwork is completed, and throwing a holiday party once a year.  If the paperwork aspect of the job takes away from creating relationships with employees, companies should consider having some other department handle obtaining information for the new hire packets, getting handbooks signed, and following up to ensure that supervisors have satisfied their sexual harassment training every two years.  Having HR focus on the employee development and satisfaction, not the paperwork, could also send a message to employees that the company understands and cares about HR.