In the corporate world, when it comes to HR, trust is a currency that’s been devalued over the years. The relationship between employees and Human Resources has evolved, and not necessarily for the better.
Cierra Gross, the CEO and principal consultant at Caged Bird HR, understands this transformation all too well. In an era where HR has shifted from being an employee advocate to a business partner, Gross is on a mission to bridge the trust gap between HR and employees.
“When HR made its transformation into strategic business partners, I think HR did it for the right reasons. But it had a lot of unintended consequences. And so, when the entire function’s main client became the business, as opposed to serving employees, that was the beginning of the distrust [being] embedded in these organizations,” Gross explained.
As per a previous report, approximately 45 percent of organizations view HR as partners in strategic planning and execution, while only about 30 percent seek HR input in planning and strategy execution. This shift in HR’s role has contributed to employees becoming more skeptical of their intentions.
The rise of social media has further exacerbated this issue. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and LinkedIn have given employees a platform to share their unfiltered workplace experiences.
Cierra Gross noted, “Employees are now being open and honest and forthcoming, and using TikTok and Instagram and LinkedIn even to pull the curtain back off of their real experiences. It’s not hard for people to look at the experiences of others and say, ‘Oh, have you got burned? Then I’m probably going to get burned’.”
Mistakes by high-profile companies, like the infamous Google walkout in 2018, have also fueled distrust. Google faced backlash after it was revealed that they gave a $90-million exit package to an executive accused of sexual harassment. This incident, along with others like it, perpetuates the belief that HR prioritizes the company over employees.
Gross emphasized the importance of trust in HR, stating, “When we think about the most important cyclical processes that HR executes – performance management, compensation and things like that – employees want to know that they’re being treated fairly, that they’re being treated equitably, and that they’re able to engage with these processes in a safe way.”
Vivek Balokhra, senior manager for human resources at Sun Life, shared that many employees harbor negative perceptions of HR due to a lack of transparency and employee-friendly values.
A workplace with low trust can lead to disengaged employees, creating an environment where staff feel disempowered and psychologically unsafe. To regain employee trust, Gross believes employers must take a step back and reflect on how HR can be more transparent, equitable, and compassionate.
Gross suggested employers ask questions like, “How did we get to a point where the broader employee population really doesn’t trust one piece of this puzzle or the whole pipeline in and of itself?” She emphasized the need to recognize the humanity of employees and train HR to execute processes that consider the employee’s well-being.
Caged Bird HR is leading the charge in redefining the role of HR. It empowers employees to become their advocates by offering independent HR support. Unlike traditional HR, Caged Bird HR Consultants provide employees with unbiased advice, equipping them with the tools they need to navigate workplace challenges.
Gross, Founder & CEO of Caged Bird HR, shared her motivation behind starting the company: “It’s one thing to talk in abstract terms about the negative experiences of marginalized employees in the workplace. It’s quite another to have lived said experiences. That’s why I started Caged Bird HR. To help black, brown, LGBTQ+, differently-abled, and otherwise marginalized employees navigate these situations by sharing the insider knowledge I’ve learned in my HR career.”
In a corporate world where HR is often seen as an entity that protects employers at any cost, Caged Bird HR breaks the mold by offering compassionate, fair, and equitable HR support. With Caged Bird HR, employees can speak up confidently, knowing their vulnerability will be protected.
As Cierra Gross aptly puts it, “Capitalism has a very masculine view of oppression and exploitation and things like that. And it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Caged Bird HR is a purpose-driven solution, ushering in a new era where employee needs are heard, understood, and validated. Trust in HR may have eroded, but with companies like Caged Bird HR, employees can regain their confidence in navigating workplace challenges and advocate for their rights.