Yesterday I sent a tweet about a conversation I’d been in that morning. It briefly described a situation that had been told to me, relating to a large UK organisation the name of which would be familiar to many. This organisation was undertaking a redundancy exercise. How did you know if you were impacted? You were given a conference call number to dial, where you could listen to a recorded message. Some people got the recording that explained their jobs were safe. Others got the version that confirmed the individuals on the call were at risk of redundancy.
My tweet said that if you worked in HR and thought that was an acceptable approach, maybe it was time to find a new career.
The tweet has since had a lot of interaction; some has been from other HR folk expressing their dismay. Others have shared their own, similar stories. I have even had private messages sharing other examples that they can’t mention publically, but all of which are frankly, shameful.
I stand by what I tweeted yesterday.
In HR, we have to do difficult stuff. It’s part of the job description. We discipline people, we make them redundant, we change terms and conditions, we dismiss, reach settlement agreements, TUPE out and in, we change benefits arrangements. I have done all of this in my career and more.
We do stuff that impacts upon people’s lives. When we do that stuff, we have an obligation to do it with decency, empathy and respect. We have an obligation to do it properly and in accordance with all of the necessary policies and legislation. We have an obligation too, to do these things professionally and with the individual – and not the process – in mind.
We should not do these things the quickest way, or the easiest way. We should not do these things in the way that is most convenient for the business or the HR professional themselves.
Technology has its place – although the example here very much isn’t it. But when it comes to job losses in particular, we must do this difficult stuff face to face. It is the very least we can do. Oh, and for the record, that means you go to them, you don’t get someone to come and meet you miles away from their home or office to get the worst of the news.
This is what being a human resources professional is really about. It’s not about resources, it’s about people. They day we forget that, the day we set up a conference call to take away someone’s job, is the day we don’t deserve to work in HR.
Feel free to get your coat on the way out.