Two years ago, I was an HR executive. Having spent 20 years in developing my career in the field, I became burnt out and very angry. I was tired of all the BS and lies in companies that didn’t even benefit the actual companies themselves, their employees, their shareholders, or their investors. Everyone was complacent. And complicit.
The economy was great, and people appeared to be happy and growing in their careers. So why say something about issues like discrimination, racial bias, sexual harassment, the good ole boys network, the bureaucracy, and “playing the game”?
The silence pissed me off.
In reality, things weren’t great. They were awful. A self-made pandemic was hiding in plain sight of ignorance, injustice, and inequality. We saw signs, images, murders, shootings, tears, and voices — but we ignored them. Mental issues were also rising — but we ignored them, too. Employee tenure was plummeting — but we ignored that. We talked about VC-backed companies operating in an inhumane false bubble destroying their employees, but that’s all we did — talked.
So I left that world to create my own world. I started a company to educate others in a safe and supportive environment for everyone to thrive in.
Of course, not everyone could or should leave HR as I did. Many remain in the field out of necessity or desire or a mix of both. But they, too, should be pissed off.
We should all be upset, angry, and exhausted by the ongoing discrimination, lack of diversity, and continued complacency of HR. There is still BS in HR. Only now, we can see it more clearly as the fake glass houses we all lived in come tumbling down under the weight of renewed promises of empowerment, opportunity, education, and values. A light has been turned on to help us finally see — or at least question — who we are and who we want to be.
Now is where the real work begins. HR professionals must be brave to truly build a future of equality and justice for all. So, where do we begin today to build a brighter and fearless tomorrow?
Stand up to stupidity, no matter where it is in your organization.
Sexual harassment, discrimination, anything inhuman in the workplace — when you see something, say something. When someone comes to you with something, do something.
There are way too many workplaces that pay only lip service to values related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The biggest issue is when the inhumanness is unearthed, there are usually countless victims who have been impacted. You owe it to them and others to stand up for human values. Speak with employees. Talk to leadership. Every conversation matters, especially the kind that keeps you up at night stressed.
Alleviate that stress by saying something when you see something.
Provide ongoing training and development that enhances goals and productivity.
When you provide ongoing education to your employees, you instill endless opportunities for people throughout the organization to broaden beyond their roles to take on bigger ones. Education provides enlightenment, empowerment, and equality. It is a main artery to change in any organization.
Additionally, before you hire new people, think about retraining those already working for you. It is a fraction of the cost to do so, and employees appreciate opportunities to learn, grow, and add value back into the organization.
Be a trusted advisor to the CEO and C-suite to ignite change.
As an HR professional, your actual net worth is completely contingent on trust. Executive leadership wants to see you as a trusted ally and a strategic business partner who knows your craft, understands people data, and builds HR roadmaps that accelerate business goals.
How do you gain that trust? (1) Listen. (2) Get data. (3) Create a plan. (4) Execute on the plan with the entire organization as a shared goal.
Ensure you have a budget for all people in your organization.
You cannot do your job without a budget. It takes money to educate your entire organization and accelerate change. So your first exercise is to understand how your budget breaks down in dollars per employee. Then consider if current spending practices are really working? Are you seeing a return? Dig into the data. Look for the gaps.
Know the basic principles of people, law, and how to build a people strategy roadmap.
The majority of COVID layoffs that were masked in desperation were actually illegal. Do you know the WARN Act? Do you know EEOC, ADA, OSHA, disparate impact reporting, and other protections for employees? Did you violate any of these during layoffs? There’s a good chance you did. It’s important to know your craft, know your company, know your gaps, and build a strategy that embraces change that is fair and equitable to all.
Being pissed off has a shelf life, but igniting change for the better and greater good is limitless. Let’s take our anger and our fear, and let’s come together to be the light and the beacon for tomorrow.
I left HR to help HR, to share my knowledge and experience, to help bring us together to protect our most important assets in companies. I understand your pain, which can only be alleviated with core HR guiding principles. We can bring back the “human” in our resources with education, empathy, and equality for all.