Not that long ago I started a new HR Director role in a medium sized organisation. Full of enthusiasm I asked my senior management peers what they wanted from the HR team. I was gobsmacked to be told by one to ‘just do the letters, we can do everything else’.
Undeterred, I moved the HR function from an administrative support to an equal partner in decisions affecting the business. We worked at that tricky point between the commercial imperatives and the moral aspirations of business to make sure our people were both challenged and happy to work with us.
Contrast that with today’s world where the people function is right there at the heart of business decision making. The pandemic shake up has brought a few surprises on to the HR plate: physical, financial and mental wellbeing; the demands of home working and home schooling; different work patterns; furlough, testing and vaccinations. And that’s before you get on to headcount and redundancy consultation.
Where a business needs to downsize to survive, the selection of which roles and which people remain is critical to the future health of the business. That’s a lot of pressure on the HR team. Just look at the damage of getting your selection or your process wrong somewhere. Not only reputational damage but a potentially terminal diagnosis.
One CEO I worked for commented that ‘if HR is doing a good job they will be invisible and everything will be working seamlessly’. That may be true but if HR is working effectively I believe they should be recognised for the valuable work they are delivering rather than being invisible. That includes budget for their own development alongside investment in the other teams.
Whichever way you look at it, the demands on HR professionals are varied and enormous. My HR coaching clients have really benefitted from time and a confidential space to think about their own values and priorities. They work out a clear plan and move forward with the confidence to do more than ‘just the letters’.