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5 ways to use HR to your advantage

Human resources

Sam Sanders, PhD, has watched the human resource game change completely during his long HR career.

“Today’s HR department is less about just hiring and firing and putting out personnel fires,” says Sanders, campus college chair for the School of Business at the University of Phoenix Atlanta Campus, “and more about creating partnerships and supporting teamwork.”

In an uncertain business climate, says Sanders, former vice president of human resources for Sony Electronics’ Convergent Media Systems, workers need strategic business partners who work with them from the moment they’re hired.

Forming partnerships with HR, he notes, means employees will know what the department has to offer and when to ask for help. Here, Sanders offers his top tips for making the most of that relationship:


Seek expertise on benefits.

Corporate benefits programs change constantly, but your HR department will be on top of the latest information and can help you decide, for example, which health care and company savings options are best for you, Sanders says. In some cases, the department might offer seminars or recommend off-site tutorials so you can make informed choices about the kinds of coverage and savings plans you’ll need.


Learn your position’s past.

HR personnel usually know every job description in the company, who held your position before you and how your performance will be measured in that job. So, Sanders says, staffers can talk knowledgably — and in confidence — to you about the history of your job.

“The key,” he says, “is asking for that history up front, and not waiting until you have an issue.”


Take problems seriously.

When you have a concern about a manager or a subordinate, no matter how small, Sanders says it’s best to take it directly to HR. That way, he notes, if the problem continues or worsens, you’ll have a record of it from its onset, making it more difficult for the other person involved to claim the issue was a one-time occurrence.


Be honest about your job.

If you love the company but not your current position there, Sanders says, it’s a good idea to let HR know before you decide to quit.

“Tell us you want to stay with the company and are interested in pursuing other challenges,” says Sanders, who believes most companies would rather keep strong employees by moving them to positions where they’ll be productive, than lose them altogether.


Get help motivating subordinates.

If you’re a manager who has an underperforming employee, HR can help you set goals and guidelines to improve the employee’s performance, while also noting that a problem exists. “In the worst case,” Sanders says, “you’ll at least have HR on board to help you terminate that person’s employment.”

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