As billed in the name, an employee advocate – whether a manager or assigned human resources expert – assists, supports and defends workplace staff. To sum up the HR professional definition, most of their work functions relate to hiring, firing, benefits, pay, overtime and preventing discrimination and harassment. The importance of an advocate to employees becomes clear in several job-related circumstances, such as when training or fairness comes into question.
An employee advocate is like the workplace hero, preparing, training and helping new workers to ease into their roles. Advocates assist with tuition, if available, and might create and update training manuals so that all employees can reach out to a common source for information, as needed.
If an employee struggles to do the job they were hired for, an advocate will provide them with various additional sources of training, coaching and mentoring. If the role proves too difficult for a worker after an allotted training period, HR will try to find him a more suitable position within the company, if possible.
Included in HR roles and responsibilities in an organization is the ability to answer employee questions when, perhaps, a supervisor cannot. For instance, employee benefit programs can be quite complex; it's the role of HR professionals to oversee them and to help workers understand them.
Sometimes the worker wants a qualified person to speak to in confidence. An employee may need specific details about leave of absence, worker's compensation or other sensitive work-related matters. An employee advocate would provide this type of assistance in a confidential manner.
Many employees are uncomfortable standing up to their employer when they think or even know they've been wronged, harassed or treated with blatant unfairness. An employee advocate advises management or folks in supervisory roles on the rights of workers, preferably before an offense is committed.
Persons with disabilities, for instance, have the right to suitable job accommodations that streamline how they perform their duties and make accessibility around the work area a non-issue. A worker who, say, uses a wheelchair, may need to be assigned a parking space near the entrance, require a washroom that meets the Americans with Disabilities Act standards or need office furniture and obstacles rearranged for proper accessibility. It is the role of HR to see that every worker's needs and rights are being met.
Another role of HR professionals is to make sure equal employment opportunity isn't overlooked. Without equal employment opportunity, job seekers could be turned down based on their sex, age, race or other discriminatory factors. This leads to an imbalance in how diversities are represented.
When a dispute between an employee and higher up stays unresolved, HR steps into the role of mediator to try to fix the issue as fairly as possible for both sides. From the employee's standpoint, it's important to have a professional who understands her job's pressures and whom she can confide in regarding the issue at hand. Having such an advocate helps workers – and their bosses – to see the bigger picture and, in many cases, improves employee-employer relationships.
The support of employee advocates is invaluable. Without assigning managerial advocates or implementing HR roles and responsibilities in an organization, a typical business can struggle to retain workers and find it difficult to compete in general. In a nutshell, it's economically unhealthy for all involved.
Typically, the strong interpersonal skills of employee advocates such as HR professionals are assets to staff and management departments alike. By being able to train, guide, assist and support workers in an appropriate manner, advocates help to make the employee experience – in any work atmosphere – an all-around more tolerable and enjoyable one.