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6 Best-Practice Tips From America’s Top HR Departments

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Even if your HR department has only two or three employees, it can still incorporate some of the best approaches to HR management used in the country’s top HR departments.

“You don’t have to be well-funded to focus on what’s good for your employees or the right thing for your business,” says Charles Tharp, co-director of the HR management department at Rutgers University.

Tharp and other industry experts cite GE, Coca-Cola, IBM, Google and PepsiCo as five of the top HR departments. They share some basic approaches to HR that can benefit much smaller departments, including:

1. They know the organization’s business. They understand clients, customers, competition and balance sheets—and make sure HR staff does the same.

2. They actively seek input from lower-level HR staff. “A lot of departments don’t listen to front-line HR people, especially those with little experience,” says Patricia Mathews, founder of Workplace Solutions consulting firm. The five companies are magnets for résumés from top college HR grads partly because they listen to newcomers.

3. HR execs personally invest time in their employees. HR chiefs become personally involved in training and mentoring HR staff at all levels, and encourage HR employees to link their work to business strategy.

4. They manage aggressively. They don’t wait until somebody in HR resigns to promote a fast-riser who deserves it.

5. They rotate HR staffers in different jobs to try to create well-rounded professionals. They offer online and classroom training in HR.

6. They use HR technology and systems automation wisely. They invest in technology that removes routine administrative work, from HR information systems to succession planning software, says Nancy Glubie, AT&T’s executive HR director.

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