Today’s blog post was inspired by a fantastic article I read recently. The article in question contained insight from a number of HR professionals who had progressed to become CEOs, and the things they learnt along the way.
A question I have been asked on a number of occasions during my career in HR is “whose side are you on?” The implication being that HR, by the nature of its function, must be biased towards supporting the employer or employee during its many day to day transactions and activities.
What’s in a name, people ask? Well, plenty, it turns out, when you get onto the thorny topic of job titles.
For some reason, job titles (along with desk location and dress code) are one of the elements of working life which seem to elicit more of an emotive response in people than almost anything else. For many of us, our job title is a primary facet of our work identity, and therefore it is given increased weight when it comes to its significance and the value we place on it.
As the end of year approaches at pace, in between the Christmas festivities it might be time to think about getting your HR house in order.
Most of us will have started the year with some sort of plan of action in the form of our HR strategy. Precisely what that strategy looks like will vary dramatically – anything from a formal strategy document to a roughly drawn out to do list! Either way, it will have outlined our target areas of focus for the year.
One of the most regular training requests I get asked for is advice on handling difficult conversations. Whether it’s managing a tough client negotiation, dealing with a grievance, or even asking for a pay rise… there are certain conversational topics which we seem to come pre-programmed to want to avoid.
Before I started my HR career, I trained and worked as a professional actor. I made the decision early on to change my career path after fairly rapidly realising that the cutthroat world of professional theatre was unlikely to offer me the financial security I was looking for!
If you read my blog post: What Does The HR Department Actually Do, you’ll know that one of the delivery focus areas I referenced was Legislative Compliance. We have a responsibility to our organisation to ensure that we are legally compliant and have people practices in place supporting this.
However, how do you ensure that you strike the right balance? How do you ensure that your policies are compliant and your organisation stays out of any employment tribunals without spending all of your time here, at the detriment of the engagement and experience of your employees, and the achievement of your organisational goals?
If someone told you that they were a doctor, you’d probably have at least a vague idea of what they did. Likewise if someone told you they were a gardener, or a taxi driver, or a high court judge. You might not be able to describe their day to day activities in any level of detail, but you could broadly outline the overriding objective of their role. ‘You make people better.’ ‘You plant things.’ ‘You decide who’s going to go to prison.’ Simplistic, but you get the idea.
When it comes to HR, however, I’ve discovered it’s not quite so easy. Respond to the classic dinner party ice breaker of ‘So, what do you do?’, and your reply of ‘I work in HR’ is likely to be met with at best vague recognition, at worst a totally blank stare. Turns out, while most of us have heard of the HR department, not many of us know what it actually does.
I was speaking on the phone to a family member yesterday evening. They have recently handed in their notice as they have decided to take early retirement from their role as a senior director within a large, global organisation.
We got onto the subject of exit interviews. They’d asked their HR team whether they were going to have one. Apparently exit interviews were carried out ‘at the discretion of line managers’, without intervention from HR. In any case, the individual in question was apparently unlikely to have one. After all, they were retiring. The reason they were leaving employment was obvious. Where would the value be in spending time undertaking an exit interview?