Relationships are central to HR’s role as ‘people’ professionals. HR’s connections are varied, from potential new recruits to line managers and chief executives, not to mention the rapport HR needs to have within their own team. Good working relationships can make life a lot easier for HR; likewise, poor relationships can make HR-related work an uphill battle.

hr report relationships

Cezanne HR’s new report: The Psychology of HR Relationship Building: Trust, visibility, and respect, provides HR with practical advice, survey insights, and first-hand views from HR practitioners on different ways to positively impact HR’s bonds with the workforce.

HR and the senior leadership team

To effectively drive change and improvements in the business, HR’s most influential relationships will be those that they have with their senior leadership team. From the CEO signing off new initiatives, to the CFO providing the funding for a new HR system, HR wants to be on the right side of the C-Suite.

In the report above, Sarah Hogg, the charity Brook’s Head of People and Organisational Development, states: ‘I have a great relationship with our chief executive, and this certainly helps in terms of how HR is seen at Brook. And having the buy-in for HR initiatives from our chief exec definitely empowers us as an HR team.’

So, what are the best ways to build solid relationships with senior management?

  • Make sure you have the right data to hand when your leaders need it to make quick decisions – good HR systems will help you with this.
  • Be visible by attending senior leadership team meetings, networking events, etc. Let people get to know you.
  • Excel in the areas that have high impact on the business: data protection, onboarding, career and succession planning, and more.

HR and the general workforce

Cezanne HR’s recent survey shows that 45% of people think HR favours senior staff (read the report above for the full insights). This is a problem because HR needs to relate to all their workers. If conflict arises, it’s important for employees to feel like they can trust HR to help them; if there’s a dispute about holiday absence management, it’s far better for HR to be involved than for employees to instead just ‘pull sickies’ – these are just two instances of many more of how HR can help.

As The Psychology of HR Relationship Building: Trust, visibility, and respect posits: ‘Of course, there will always be situations where HR has to side with managers and business leaders, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t also provide advice and support to junior staff. The HR function should be a resource for all employees.’

If HR is worried that they aren’t relating to all of their workforce, they could:

  • Make a deliberate choice to increase their interactions with all levels of staff, for example, more chats by the coffee machine, video calls to check in with new employees – it all helps to create a bond.
  • Look at the resources HR makes available to the business (for example, flyers about superannuation) and ensure they use language that everyone can relate to, and that there is information that applies to people at all levels of the organisation.
  • Be as transparent as possible about HR processes so no one feels like there is one rule for general staff and another for senior leaders. And make sure you follow through on this so the workforce knows the same rules apply to everyone.

HR’s relationships with each other

It’s easy for HR to be preoccupied with the relationships they have with the rest of the business, and to forget that connections they have with their colleagues are very important, too. A strong team that respects and trusts each other is far more effective than HR practitioners who are working in isolation from each other.

For instance, HR business partners can easily lose touch with the recruiters in their department, but forging close ties will help both be more effective for their stakeholders. And if payroll is part of the HR function, understanding what their colleagues who are looking after absence management are up to can save a lot of questions about an irregular pay slip, if say, someone was allowed to take unpaid leave which turns out to be a new initiative for the business.

To keep HR colleagues aligned, try:

  • regular team meetings, either face to face or via video call, where everyone can provide a quick update on what they’ve been doing
  • to maintain fairness, Cezanne HR’s report advises: ‘If two employees hold the same skills and the same job type, but only one is given a chance to learn new skills, the other employee will lose their respect in HR and management, and quickly disengage.’ – this equally applies to HR employees
  • having fun together as a team – conversations and activities that aren’t all about work can help with the core relationship-building aspects noted in the report above: visibility, trust and respect.

Find out more about HR and relationship building by reading Cezanne HR’s new report The Psychology of HR Relationship Building: Trust, visibility, and respect launched today.

Shandel McAuliffe author image

Shandel McAuliffe

Now based in sunny Australia, Shandel is prolific writer and editor - particularly in the world of HR. She's worked for some big names, including the CIPD and the Adecco Group. And more recently, she's been the Editor for new HR publication HR Leader.