More than a third of US small business workers say they don’t trust their company’s HR department

More than a third of U.S. workers say they don’t trust their company’s human resources department, citing reasons such as bias, favoritism, inconsistency, lack of employee care and lack of confidentiality, according to a March 1 report from Secure Data Recovery.

Among those who work in small companies with fewer than 50 employees, 47% said their company’s HR structure is unprofessional, and 43% don’t feel like they can confide in their HR team.

“If policies and decisions are not consistently applied, it can be hard to take HR seriously,” according to the report. “In short, fostering a transparent and fair HR environment is crucial for building trust within organizations.”

In a survey of 1,005 workers, half said a lack of an HR department contributes to a toxic workplace. 

In fact, 88% said they’ve worked for a small company with no dedicated HR person, and 73% have worked at a company where the HR person also had another job. For 68%, this meant working at a company where their boss also managed HR.

In their current roles, 64% of workers said their boss has a hand in HR operations, and 24% feel uncomfortable about it. This can feel unprofessional, they noted.

Workers said the top actions that make HR in small companies seem unprofessional are general disorganization, poor communication, failure to address interpersonal conflicts, a lack of standardized processes and a tendency to ignore employee feedback.

In addition, three in 10 said not having an HR department means the company doesn’t care about employees, and nearly three in 10 said they’ve witnessed upper management take advantage of there not being an HR team. Nearly half said they wish their company had a more structure to the HR department.

“For any business, taking the time to enhance HR practices is crucial for fostering a positive workplace environment,” according to the report. “While HR can be a controversial department for employees, the lack of a department can paint a negative picture.”

Employers can build trust during uncertain times by creating stability, focusing on company values, engaging workers in the decision-making process, building empathetic leadership and investing in career development opportunities, HR leaders told HR Dive.

Earning and maintaining employee trust also improves the bottom line, according to a PwC survey. Creating a transparent company culture, boosting internal communications and upskilling initiatives can help.

Focusing on human sustainability, or prioritizing workers and customers at the center of the company, can build business performance as well, according to a Deloitte report. Although most leaders seem to understand that a focus on human performance is important for a thriving organization, they still need to close the gap between knowing the issues and doing enough to make progress, Deloitte experts said, noting that trust and transparency play a major role.