As we all know, the pace of changes in the business environment has increased significantly over last several years. HR function is also going through interesting times. Questions keep getting raised on the relevance and value add by HR department in the changing times.
What can HR departments do to maintain their credibility and achieve excellence? What are the lessons that we derive on the subject from the world leading thinkers?
- Care about your organization:
Identify yourself with the purpose of the organization. Do you see it serves a unique need of the customer? Are your values aligned with the value system of the organization? If yes, then whatever you do naturally, serves the purpose of the organization automatically.
“You can have everything you want in life if you just help enough people get what they want in life.” – Zig Ziglar
- Learn the Business.
HR has to shift its focus from the organization of the business to focusing on the business of the organization.
We need to learn the business of business. Understanding how the activities of the HR department impact the goals of the organization will help you speak the language of the organization. In order to reach that next level, HR has to continuously think outside of the box and reinforce alignment with business strategies, initiatives and vision of the organization.
“To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart” – Sr. Thomas Watson
- Dreaming more than others think practical:
Are we stuck in that rut of “This is what we do as HR professionals”? Does that mean there is no room for improvement within the responsibilities of HR? Every day we see things that are just not quite right and we don’t ask why we are doing them. The usual thinking is “That is the way we have always done it”. No one remembers why we started doing it, but keep following it as a tradition blindly. HR has the role of seeing new ways of doing things and be willing to take the chance that in the long run will make their organization outshine others.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”- Eleanor Roosevelt
“All our dreams come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt Disney
“When you cease to dream you cease to live.” -Malcolm Forbes
- Keep Commitments and Meet Deadlines:
Doing what you say and meeting deadlines consistently, builds credibility. If something prevents you from doing so, be sure to keep others informed with updates during the course of time and not just when the timeline has crossed for delivery.
“Most people fail not because of lack of desire, but because of lack of commitment”– Vince Lombardi
- Risk more to change the corporate culture:
Economic environment, business models, demographics and technology trends keep offering several challenges and opportunities regularly. Every instance of change carries with it a level of risk.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”- Thomas Edison
“Difficulties in your life do not come to destroy you, but to help you realize your hidden potential and power. Let difficulties know that you too are difficult.”- Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
The change might not be right for your organization but you will not know until you try. HR needs to be at the forefront of this effort. If we do not look at the trends proactively and their likely future impact to make timely course corrections, we will not know when it actually hits us.
There are 3 kinds of people in this world- (1) Those who make things happen; (2) Those who watch things happen, and (3) Those who wonder “what happened”.
Let’s be in the first category
- Own Your Mistakes:
We can’t be right all the time. To error is human, and incidentally, we run a Human Resource (HR) department only! If we make a mistake, we shouldn’t try to hide it or blame others. Admit when you are wrong. If necessary, ask for feedback on how you can improve or share what you have learned from the mistake. If an apology is in order, apologize.
“Your best teacher is your last mistake” – Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
- Learn to Ask and Listen:
Listening is often one of the most difficult of the communication skills. As we have 2 ears and 1 mouth, we should try to listen twice as much as we speak. Failing to listen or ask the right questions, despite best intentions and genuineness of the cause, could result in completely wrong message being communicated out.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” -Albert Einstein
Break the perception of “HR is there to police” and “HR finds ways to say No”. At times, HR professionals have to say “No”, keeping the larger organization, culture and practice in mind. But, we should not just say “No” and shut the other up, rather involve them in decision making and explain reasons and repercussions of such a deviant decisions on the larger workforce. Better approach is to find ways to ‘say yes’ by helping others find alternative solutions. This is where the ‘ask and listen’ skill becomes critical.
- EXPECTING more from your people:
Many HR professionals and organization tend to stereotype their human capital assets. How often have you heard these comments?
- They are just out for the paycheck
- They are lazy and just do not want to work
- They are spending all day on their mobiles or wasting time on social media
Why not change the stereotypes to seek out the full potential of your people. Why not see the extended potential that engaged employees can leverage to create defining moments for the organization.
HR has to demonstrate the ability and willingness to learn from experience, and subsequently apply that learning to perform successfully under new or first-time conditions. This rubs positively on other parts of the organization and its people, galvanizing them to look positively, leverage strengths of people and do their best to create impact in their spans of work.
“You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.” – Michael Jordan
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein
- Develop Empathy and Keep Emotions in Check:
There is a great expression that I adore-
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Showing empathy to others does not mean that you agree, it simply means that you understand the emotion they are going through. Not acknowledging this emotion sends the message that you are not listening or do not care.
Further, HR professionals need to be careful with emotions. While positive emotions can fuel our success, negative emotions can destroy our credibility. Emotions and logic do not always work together well. For example, it is human nature to become defensive when one feels attacked; however, letting emotion take over for logic in this case increases your risk of saying things that you will later regret. So, HR profession has an onerous responsibility to create self-awareness, self-regulation, and balancing emotions with facts, figures and objective assessment to help inculcate an open, transparent and vibrant culture.
“When you show deep empathy towards others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you get more creative in solving problems”- Stephen Covey
- Accept and celebrate differences:
One of the biggest challenges we experience in dealing with people is accepting and celebrating that “we are all different”. We all perceive the world in many ways. So the challenge comes when we have to align our people towards common goals, plans and objectives. Whenever we are leading any change, don’t we all feel more comfortable when people “get” us and can see our point of view? On the other hand, boredom and dullness starts stetting in if all think on same lines and no new idea springs up to handle new challenges.
Alignment comes only when we accept the diversity of thoughts, ideas, backgrounds, gender, viewpoints and weave that all together in our cultural fabric, while giving “space’ and freedom of expression to all. This breeds creativity and innovation that in turns provide a distinct competitive edge to the organization. We should try to give credit where due, even if that person has opposed us on most other fronts. Such acknowledgements demonstrates the genuineness of our feedback and the fact that HR confronts issues and not people.
“Diversity is the magic. It is the first manifestation, the first beginning of the differentiation of a thing and of simple identity. The greater the diversity, the greater the perfection.” – Thomas Berry