In the shadow

I’ve blogged before on leadership shadow. The idea that leaders cast shadows across organisations through their behaviour, their actions, their language. How the shadow gives clues as about how to fit in and how to get on. Employees look to their leaders to learn what is okay around here, and the shadow is the quiet answer to a subtle question.

But what about the HR shadow? How does that cast across the organisation and influence its culture?

The wording in the offer letter.
The clauses in the contract of employment.
The tone of voice of the employment policies.
The language in the standard letters.
The forms that need to be filled in.
The choice of communication method.
The speed of your response.
The advice you give.
The rules you create.
The processes. Oh the processes.
How much you tell, rather than guide. How much you restrict rather than empower.
The approachability. The availability. The overall visibility.
The smile on your face.

Put aside for just one moment all those thoughts of strategic value add activity. The engagement initiatives, leadership programmes, total reward package and all the shiny shiny. Important they may all be. But it is the little stuff that makes up your shadow. It’s the little things that matter. The everyday interactions. The words you write, the tone you use, the way you make people feel, how easy you are to engage with, talk to.

I saw someone tweet recently that HR should stop organising the Christmas party. Why? Someone has got to do it, and I’m not so precious about losing my seat at the table that it can’t be me. At my place we organise the Christmas party, and the football tournament, the charity events. If it is people stuff, I’m in. I’m all for human, human resources. This is the shadow I strive for. In HR we have the power to set the tone, change the tone; an opportunity that isn’t so available to some of our corporate colleagues. We can actually choose what it feels like, to be in our shade. And just maybe, we can lead the way, be the change.

So what does your HR shadow say about you, at your place? Is it dark?

5 thoughts on “In the shadow

  1. Hi Gemma,

    What a big topic! Shadows are all around and as you suggest every interaction we have with our peers and customers (internal or external) have a huge impact on our personal brand and that of our company or department.

    Could or should HR be the conscience of an organisation? The Jiminy Cricket? How often do HR departments mirror the shadow of executive leaders and should they? Corporate culture does tend to stem from that of it’s leaders, What if that culture is wrong for the brand? Can HR influence that for the good? Rhetorical questions!

    As ever a great post…thanks!


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