I’m in a reflective sort of mood. I guess it’s the new year. Something has been on my mind for a few weeks now. Towards the end of last year, I went to a seminar. The speaker asked: ‘what do you stand for?’ It didn’t resonate. Then he asked it again: ‘what do you stand for, really?’ I didn’t have an immediate answer, and that shocked me.
I know what my personal brand is all about. If you read my twitter bio it tells you that I’m into employment law, employee relations, recruitment and coaching. I’m also pretty interested in all things social media, leadership and the future of work. But these are just HR subjects in reality; these interests don’t say anything about what I stand for professionally. So I thought about it. Then I thought about it some more, and I’ve come up with a list of what as a HR professional, I believe I should stand for. I’ve also added in a few ideas about what we shouldn’t be all about.
So here goes:
- Doing the right thing. We all have to do difficult things from time to time in order to deliver the business strategy. Sometimes we have to take difficult decisions, but when you enact these decisions, you do it in a way that gives people the most respect that you can. You can ensure that people are treated with fairness and equity.
- Being a good leader. IMHO one of the most important things you can be. Giving people confidence, opportunities and space to grow. Providing thanks and feedback.
- Coaching. Enabling. Making people resourceful.
- Adding value by being the people expert (even if this does mean reading vast amounts of books on TUPE and trade unions in my case). Not being afraid to say when you don’t know you are talking about.
- Being honest. Even if you have something not very nice to say.
- Being at the forefront of new stuff. Being the person who is pushing for best practice, keeping the business up to date, and driving forward the people agenda. Any old excuse to spend all day on Twitter…………….
What I don’t think HR should stand for IMHO:
- Telling, not coaching. I don’t tell you what to do, I give you advice and explain the pros and cons and the risks. I also don’t do it for you, it it’s your responsibility.
- Processes. I’ve commented many times on HR processes in earlier blogs. If they don’t add value or enable decision making I am just not doing them. And that’s that.
- Being a support function. If you are serious about your people, don’t ask me for support. Ask me to be your partner in achieving your strategy.
These are the things that I stand for. What are yours?
In my last HRgem blog I was fairly critical of some managers in relation to what they expect from their HR teams. However, HR aren’t perfect either. So I thought I had better even up the scales, and write a little about what I think are the biggest mistakes made in HR and by HR people. Let me know what’s on your list?
1. Being the policy police. Don’t get me wrong, polices are hugely important. It’s just that we often have a tendency (me included) to write overlong tomes that try and cover every eventuality. Then when we have finished them, we follow them slavishly. There is a time to be flexible, it’s just a matter of knowing when and how you can. Otherwise, you risk being seen as a blocker and people will go around you.
2. Being too risk adverse. The fear of the employment tribunal can make the average HR person quake at the best of times, but I often meet people who put off making difficult decisions or doing difficult things because there is risk associated with it. There is risk in getting out of bed in the morning; if all HR do is quote the reasons why not to do something they won’t be seen as credible or commercial.
3. Having HR processes for the sake of processes. I’ve blogged before about my dislike of bureaucratic HR processes. If it doesn’t add any value, it’s not legally required or the output isn’t used, then just don’t do it.
4. Inflexibility. I remember a former company where you could not move from the recruitment PSL unless they had failed to deliver for a given number of days. Now there was probably a good reason why this had been negotiated. Maybe it gave the company some great costs savings. However, no one knew this, and it impacted the business. A policy had been put in place without proper consideration of the needs of the business, and HR just parroted it at line managers who became increasing frustrated with the lack of results.
5. Having a one size fits all approach. In a few years there will be five generations in the workplace. One benefits proposition, one recruitment strategy, one way of managing isn’t going to cut it. If you aren’t thinking about this already, then you need to be.
6. Lack of commercial awareness. I admit, numbers aren’t my thing. When the monthly figures come out I find it hard work, but make the effort to digest and understand. See next point.
7. Just turning up for the HR bit. If you want to be a HR business partner, you need to partner at every level. If that means sitting through meetings about sales and marketing plans, IT strategy or improving the customer experience then so be it. If HR just turn up for a slot at the end of the meeting agenda to talk about people then you won’t be viewed as an integral part of the management team.
8. Forgetting who you work for. I know some HR people take the approach that they are there as an intermediary between the company and the workforce. They take a mediation / compromise role. Ultimately, HR are employed by an organisation for an organisation.
9. Notwithstanding point 8, not doing a bit of tea and tissues sometimes. There is a time and place for this too, in balance.
10. Failing to understand the business pressures. If you are want to implement a new clothing policy while the business is going through major problems expect to be ignored just a bit.
Of course, I have never made any of these mistakes in my career………………….