What happened with Human Resources when they say they create a culture but they end up representing CFO and lawyers at the expense of employees?
Historical Overview of Human Resources
Human Resources started as mainly personnel department. They were tasked to track time and leaves, issue payroll, manage employees contracts and other administrative tasks to govern the relationship between employees and the organization. With time, this role has developed and became an important functional unit that supports organizational strategy and its growth. This has even earned Human Resources a seat at the c-suite table along with more power and influence in decision-making.
Human Resources Learning
For the past few decades education has supported this growth by designing and delivering Human Resource Management programs. In addition, associations formed to support this ever growing community. Below is a summary of the focus areas commonly taught in Human Resources Management educational programs:
- Foster individual, team, and organizational learning and development
- Build a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture
- Implement effective HR practices across cultural and geographical borders
- Foster relationships that are based on trust, teamwork and direct communication
- Implement strategies to align employee skills with business goals
- Promote HR as a business partner
As one might deduce that most focus areas revolve around creating an open, trusting and thriving culture for the benefit of the organization. Which is human-centric.
Despite the learning that supports designing a great culture, employee engagement and other related indicators are not improving. On the contrary, they are worsening, suggesting that HR function is not delivering upon its intended goals. There are stories everywhere showing that HR actually are the spokespeople for the lawyers (please check the videos about a teacher Amanda Coffman resigning during a livestream in front of a school board). Another example coming from airline industry where its employees say:
“As long as they’re making big profits, they’re going to treat us, employees, like garbage. We are:
- constantly looking for a better job, and when we find one, we tend to bail with little or no notice
- treated with disrespect
- changed, replaced without consideration
- not in a position to trust each other.”
The gap between employees expectations and the actual role played by HR is becoming too wide to ignore. Employees are calling out this hypocrisy more often than before. Organizations are trying to, unsuccessfully, address those problems and their efforts. Some initiatives resulted in changing titles, some of which we currently find are “Chief People Officer”, “Chief Engagement Officer”, “Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer”…
We say unsuccessfully, because the fundamentals are still the same. No change in the mindset that would allow for change in the behavior. They are still operating in a way that places the organization first at the expense of employees, which by doing so makes them reactive instead of responsive.
Consider the case where an organization’s leadership decided to downsize its workforce by 5%. We learn about this approach in any MBA program as an effective one in face of cutting costs. We will not question the decision, at least within this blog. Though, we believe that this approach has more negative impact rather than positive on the long term outlook of the organization. In this blog we are going to question the How we implement such decision,
It is very common to communicate with all employees about the decision and provide a timeframe for finalizing names, numbers and exit procedures. Also, during the announcement leadership will urge everyone to continue operating in the same way and the reason for such a downsizing is only business and has nothing to do with their performance.
Unfortunately, the immediate reaction to the announcement is a drop in the overall performance. This is due to the fact that all employees will be anxious and or worried about theirs and or their colleagues future prospects. The drop in performance, is not measured and therefore does not show on the P&L handled by the CFO which is turn is not highlighted anywhere. This approach is the basis of the Legacy Industrial Model manifested through the Magnificent Compression Machine where we treat people as nothing but cogs in a wheel. Read more about it in our blog and go over the below image: https://humancentricleading.net/2019/11/14/the-magnificent-compression-machine/.
Human Resources as a result work tirelessly with lawyers in order to navigate through local labor laws and other related aspects. The interesting element is that employees, overnight, move from being considered as assets to liabilities.
Human-Centric Leading approach
Let us ask ourselves, is there a better way to handle and or approach such a situation. The answer is yes, and for us to do that we need to break away from the Legacy Industrial Model and more towards a Human-Centric Leading approach. Going back to the downsizing case, using a Human-Centric Leading approach pushes us to look at employees as people. We need to see them as someone else’s son and daughter, and hence we should treat them as such. By doing so, we become more resourceful and we start responding instead of reacting. Some of the approaches we can think of are:
- talk to the impacted employees directly, instead of alarming the overall organization
- provide them with recruiting services
- give them in addition to their severance packages 3 months paid leave to find a job
- recruit them to another position within the organization and or partners, suppliers…
When we put on the Human-Centric Leading lens on, we become more resourceful and therefore we will have access to more ideas. You can read more about our Human-Centric Leading approach here.
Let us bring back humanity to our workplace and make sure Human Resources are working for all stakeholders. Using Human-Centric Leading helps us close the gap between the intentions and actions.