HR Advice to Start 2015: Resolve to Listen More to Your People This Year

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“But, it is the General Manager who so sets the tone and culture in an organization.

That statement, by a local reporter, followed the recent firing of New York Jets football coach Rex Ryan. As I watched the news over the holidays, I saw that there were a lot of sports people who lost their jobs.

As another famous football executive, Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, explained years ago, “you are what your record says you are.”

How did you do?

As one year ends and another begins, it is always a good time to reflect on our work and accomplishments for the past year.

What was our record? Did we just coast through with no major accomplishments? Was our playbook the same as the previous years? More importantly, are we just kicking the can down the road?

I had a conversation over the holidays with an HR executive in the Middle East who was in active job search mode. She was not pleased with her year, and her leadership team was of the know-all, end-all variety.

They thought knew it all and did not need the advice of an HR person. They were delusional as to the state of their employee base. To all of them in the conference room, everything was cool. Outside the conference room, the employees were unhappy, and the vast majority were in job search mode.

Another conversation with a New York-based human resource executive told me how she was referred to as an “HR administrator ” since her leadership team told her they really did not need an HR department. They looked at her role as simply process driven, and her advice and reasoning did not carry much weight with them.

Rumblings in your organization

While these were actual conversation relayed to me over a two-week period, I have heard of these type of situations a lot this past year. The murmurs seem to be getting louder.

So I go back to the first line in this post: The tone is set from the top of the organization. If you find any organization that is fully engaged, you will find a leadership team that is fully engaged. On the other hand, if you find one that is not engaged or where the culture is in distress, you will find a leadership team that mirrors that.

At this time of the year, resolutions abound. My suggestion for the C-Suite is to resolve to listen to the drum beat of your workforce. That trembling sound that you hear are your people wanting to be heard.

The simplest way for you and your team to connect is to walk through the corridors, stop at the work stations, and perhaps even do something as simple as saying “hello” to the staff each morning. You must begin to listen, because this is not the “soft stuff” of HR  that you should casually dismiss.

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If you feel that your team is not up to speed, you should make adjustments. You should not just dismiss the human capital advantage that you and your organization could exploit.

Managing that most important asset in 2015

What we do, and the value that all of us as HR professionals bring to your organization, is the same skill set and expertise as Marketing, IT and Finance.

You would not think of having a high level strategic session without them in the room to bring insight from their areas. What we do in HR is manage the most important asset within the organization, that same asset that you mention from time to time in your speeches and communiques.

You are very familiar with it: “People are our most important asset.

So as we head into the unknown of our business in 2015, try to harness every available resource that you can. The geniuses in your organization just might not be in your normal sphere. That nugget of gold could be on your shop floor, a few levels down from your normal perch, or could come from the least expected corner of the room.

This year, resolve to listen

My advice for all managers for 2015 is simple — Walk, Talk and more importantly LISTEN, because your people could be telling your something that you really need to know.

As former college and NFL coach Jimmy Johnson once said, “The only thing worse than a coach or CEO who doesn’t care about his people is one who pretends to care. People can spot a phony every time.”

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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