Can Your HR Department be Replaced by a 1-800 Number?

In the quest to cut costs, some businesses are asking themselves: should we reduce our HR staff and call a dedicated 1-800 HR number when we need help? The idea of reducing costs can be very appealing. Consider the decision comprehensively before opting to go this route and give particular consideration to the litigious environment every employer has to operate in today.

There are many alternatives in the marketplace for HR-related 1-800 call centers, which is essentially a hotline to call and have your human resources questions answered. Typically, these hotlines have a pool of representatives available to answer questions. Instead of having one dedicated person who knows your environment to always address your questions, you get your answer from whomever answers your call.

Another challenge employers can run in to utilizing this approach is consistency. Since every situation is different, if the manager using the hotline does not share the “right” information at the “right” time, the representative from the hotline may not give the most appropriate answer for a particular situation. Not every manager understands what the “right” information is to share. Miscommunications or under-communication could potentially open up an employer to more risk.

During some research on this topic, the HR community was surveyed and here is what they had to say:

“I can answer our managers’ questions better than a stranger could because I understand our business, our culture, our industry-specific regulations, and so on. I also prefer to follow employee issues through to the end. (For example, did the manager provide the employee with follow-up training as promised in a write up?) If managers call an outside vendor for advice, I won’t know about small issues until they become big issues.”

“I think it could be a good resource for basic questions, but if you have all of your managers calling them and get a different HR rep each time, you will likely begin having inconsistencies in your workplace since those different HR reps don’t know what the others were advising. I still think you need an in-house resource to be sure of consistency, having all the pieces linked together, etc.”

Overall, the hotline concept could be useful selectively for a company who already has qualified HR support in place who knows the company’s culture, policies and business. Such hotline services are best used as a tool to help supplement your HR staff.