It is interesting to note that Gautam's student contact has made the point about lack of respect for HR folks amidst IT employees. I would add it is much better in other industries which too are equally knowledge-intensive. But IT being a people-intensive business which is devoid of the manufacturing facility, the brands is all about only employees. Hence you end up attempting to appease them way too much because there is nothing else about the organization to celebrate or gratify-no leading brand or best-selling product. Add to it the huge profits that IT deals make-the resultant workforce is as empowered and as pampered as it can ever be.
So 'the employee concept' is the fulcrum around which anything and everything an IT organization does revolves. Though held so central and integral to the success of the organization, the employee is to be looked at sometimes as a baby that actually is not sure what it needs; often crying or quarrelling for things it cannot rightfully stake a claim to , expressing dissent at the organization's policies, questioning parity, fairness & consistency in administration of compensation & benefits practices. That it where the role of a Business HR professional comes in- being in that role, one has to strike the harmony between being the caretaker/benefactor of the pranky baby yet intervene and set expectations right when its tantrums get unacceptable. The balancing act actually is between being the employee advocate and corporate's/management's representative for policies/decisions.
I heard this phrase 'Employee Advocacy' from a senior HR manager in my organization while we were trying to evolve a role-definition for our team. The second time it echoed in my ears was when i heard Prateek (HR Head of Wipro) address the NHRDN gathering in Chennai 2 months ago. Employee Advocacy was Prateek's top answer to the audience's question-what qualitites or critical success factors in your opinion are desired in HR professionals in your organization?
Indeed true! Given the volume of decisions and policies that get rolled-out here, it is quite possible that sometimes some employees don't get their fair share. Inequities creep into the organization and the moment people get a sniff of it , their perceived parity and fairness about the organization gets contaminated. Therefore HR persons in such industries must be an employee advocate who will champion their cause.
As Gautam has rightly pointed out, some in their HR careers do not command much respect from their own bosses and peers because they do not take a stand on issues, lack personal credibility and pass the buck to others all the time-but the others too are not very popular among their employees because their job half-the-time is to say 'NO' and tame the knowledge worker.
Unlike others, most of the times in a HR career, one's work can only be felt and not seen.