HR Resolutions From the Cincinnati Roundtable

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Feb 27, 2019

The beginning of every year always pushes people to make resolutions to hopefully improve themselves in one way or another. The (Cincinnati) HR Roundtable followed that same mantra to discuss: What Resolutions Should HR Make for 2019? The small group discussion questions were relatively straightforward this month.

  1. What should HR stop doing?
  2. What should HR start doing?
  3. What should HR “be?”

It seemed that everyone attending had no problem sharing their opinions on these questions. After a short while, Steve reconvened them and this is what they had to share.

1. What should HR stop doing?

Being wimps — Nothing like starting out strong! The feedback has been earned though over time. Too often HR takes a neutral position on everything in the hope that everyone will get along and the environment will be “nice” and lack conflict. Our best intentions for a positive outcome can’t happen through inactivity. It will never work.

Underwhelming towards prospective employees — Candidate experience and employer brand are often written about as aspirations for HR to excel. However, the feedback on the street is that it rarely happens. The candidates feel that HR values the steps in their sourcing, recruiting, interviewing and hiring processes far more than making a connection with them as people.

Fearing technology or using it as a crutch to depersonalize the workplace — There are HR folks who are very comfortable and adept in utilizing technology as a tool or platform. However, they are still the exception to where the world of work is heading (and has been for some time.) HR sees technology as a task to incorporate versus seeing it as a resource for communication, efficiency and the best method to gather relevant HR business data.

Being a roadblock/barrier — This is a tough piece of feedback because HR is tasked with being the gatekeeper of organizations. Where this goes astray is when HR becomes the “no police” and isn’t really gatekeeping at all. This is unfortunately a characteristic that has been HR’s regular practice for decades. There is value in being a function that can assess situations and be a pass through for leadership and staff. You don’t have to be a roadblock.

Being narrow and rigid — The experience of most in the room, including the HR pros, is that HR is far more regimented than it has to be. This occurs because it’s easier to fall back onto endless sets of rules, regulations and policies than it is to work with people individually. That is sad, but it is how most organizations continue to view the contribution of HR. Compliance is the calling card of HR as a lead in, and not relationships with people.

2. What should HR start doing?

Being civil — It’s not that HR folks are harsh, but they are too “busy.” In the mix of all that they are responsible for, people are forgotten. Like most professions, HR has become far more consumed with a task orientation to “get things done.” When that happens, HR loses the perspective that we’re in the people business. Being civil, respectful and showing follow-through is far more valuable than cranking out another spreadsheet.

Being a culture builder — This is an exciting response! HR is in a perfect position within organizations to build, shift and shape the culture because they interact with employees from all departments and levels. Since the role stretches across departmental boundaries, it has the chance to be a positive force in developing a culture that is inclusive, dynamic and encouraging.

Talking “to” people and not “at” people — Human interaction shouldn’t devolve into a transaction that is a “to do” item on a daily checklist. HR needs to stop doing “drive by” HR and have meaningful conversations with people regardless of the time and situation. This means that HR’s time is not controlled but fluid. Organizations that have meaningful, intentional conversations are far more successful than those that chose not to.

Elevate the role higher in the organization — The term “business partner” is now regularly used to describe HR roles, but it doesn’t mean that it actually occurs. HR needs to step up and take the reins to no longer be on the sidelines of a company. HR can, and should, be integrated across the full reach of an organization. Don’t settle for, or allow yourself, to remain in a silo. Be visible, viable and present.

Owning what they bring to a company — Going back to the stop being wimps comment earlier in the notes, HR needs to be more self-assured and self-aware of all that it can do in making the people within an organization thrive. This means showing confidence, being decisive, showing grace and taking the lead in all people processes and interactions. The days of lurking in the shadows has to end.

3. What should HR “be?”

Approachable — This needs to be more than a wish. It needs to be a reality. Let me be candid – If you continue to want to practice HR at arm’s length, then change professions. You’re selling yourself, and the people you work with, short. HR should be the most approachable function within any company.

Those that model bravery, consistency and humanity — This trio of characteristic truly tie together. HR needs to constantly step forward to bridge gaps, stand up for what is ethical and right and to represent every employee. It never works to just preach behavior and expectations, you need to model it. When you do, real behavioral change occurs.

Be contrary — This suggestion sounds good, but it is hard for people to do. HR rarely wants to be the function that goes against the grain or rocks the boat. The truth is that companies need more contrarians, and HR is in a prime position to make that happen. Please understand that this isn’t a recommendation to be disruptive just for shock value. It does call for HR to be willing to step out and push people in new ways so that change can occur. We don’t have to be the ones to enforce conformity. We should be the opposite!

Be the trusted advisor — This characteristic comes with practice – plain and simple. You have to earn the access to be a trusted advisor. It can’t be bestowed upon you. It’s the best place to be because if you are able to fulfill this type of role, you can offer a more balanced perspective to all areas of work. This ranges from making recommendations regarding measurements, performance and culture.

Be fun! — It’s a bit sad that this needs to be a suggestion, but it does. People want to have fun and enjoy what they do. It’s built into our DNA. There’s nothing wrong with owning this and making it a daily reality. Honestly, if HR has fun it sets the tone for everyone else to relax and be themselves. We should all try it!

Making resolutions for the coming year was a ton of fun and the energy was amazing throughout the whole Roundtable. I hope you make it a “resolution” to attend and participate in Roundtables throughout the year.