How Can HR Get Policymakers to Listen? Here Are 5 Things You Can Do

You ever get the feeling that the government doesn’t listen to you?

I’m sure everyone has had that feeling at one time or another. Look at the folks in Wisconsin protesting the actions of a government they believe isn’t listening to them. Or perhaps you could relate better to the Tea Party and their protests (and eventual electoral results).

I’m personally more of a Rally to Restore Sanity guy than either one of those. The fact remains that everyone at one point or another feels ignored by the government they elected.

While those in power not listening to the people who elected them may be a common theme throughout history, it is hard to overlook the serious lapses in judgement that come when policymakers ignore policy experts: the very people who know the far ranging impact of legislative impact. As HR professionals, it is easy to be frustrated, but there are some answers too.

1099’s and .Jobs have something in common

When the health care reform bill that was whisked through Congress had an unexpected Easter egg (1099 reporting requirements for any vendor you do more than $600 of business with), accountants and business leaders reacted harshly to the measure. They argued (and rightfully so) that the reporting requirement would add another steep layer of paperwork to the already onerous business requirements. For the marginal amount of additional tax that was going to be collected, the amount of work required by business owners seemed a harsh penalty.

It seems as though most people on Capitol Hill agree that the 1099 reporting requirement was a little insane, but now there is a possibility that it could be delayed due to debate over the funding mechanism to replace the amount of money the new reporting requirement was estimated to bring in.

Similarly, ICANN’s reversal of their previous decision giving the .Jobs domain increased flexibility is another instance of a bureaucratic organization simply not listening to expert opinion.

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When the original decision was being contemplated, many people wrote in to the Internet authority to explain how .Jobs was going to play out if they approved the plan proposed by Employ Media and SHRM. ICANN ignored it and approved it anyway. Now months later, we see a strong reversal of the decision that allowed the change because it played out exactly how people predicted it would.

This has to be frustrating not only to the folks over at Employ Media, SHRM, and the DirectEmployers Association (the primary beneficiary of the rule change), but to the folks that initially opposed it.

If only these policymakers in both these situations had listened more carefully to policy experts — and made wise decisions the first time around.

How do you fight City Hall?

Of course, they say you can’t fight City Hall, but that’s just a cop out. If you’re frustrated with the way policymakers are writing laws, there are some ways to fight it.

  1. Elect people who will listen to you – This is the proactive approach because getting someone out of office once they are in is difficult. Even though there are elections every few years, incumbents have a big advantage. The best thing you can do? Keep electing people who actually listen to what policy experts and constituents have to say.
  2. Be informed about what’s going on – There are so many resources out there for staying on top of issues. The focus on national issues is fine, but much of the impact on HR is felt at the local and state level first. While being informed on these niche topics can be tougher, I believe it is a piece of the job that can’t be overlooked.
  3. Align yourself with institutions that can speak for you – I have not been a big fan of SHRM’s advocacy on Capitol Hill, but if you agree with them most of the time, partner up with them to make their lobbying efforts stronger. And if you disagree, find an organization that better suits your views and align yourself with them.
  4. Speak to elected officials yourself – I have no problem calling up a legislative aid for my elected representatives and giving them a piece of my mind. For me, this is easier than composing a long e-mail. I’ve often received a better response from a phone call, but even reaching out by e-mail is better than nothing.
  5. Speak out when you aren’t being heard – I know HR folks often avoid politics, but if something is going to impact your business or employees that you care about and your policymakers aren’t listening, it is time to speak out. Whether it is in the letters to the editor, radio shows, or blogs, speaking out publicly on an issue can be terribly important.

What’s your take on this? How can we continue to hold policymakers accountable to listening to feedback, especially among those who know the most about these issues?


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