07 Sep 2018

The ecstasy and agony of working as an HR professional in organizations today

I and a couple of friends from work got together at a sports bar to enjoy the knock out match between Germany and South Korea. The bar was crowded and ours was a six seater table. At the end of the first half, the waiter escorted another group of three youngsters to our table and requested us to accommodate and adjust as no other table was free. We welcomed the group and after initial introductions; during the course of which they had come to know that I was from the field of HR, one of them remarked jokingly and enquired, “Please don’t mind me asking you but tell me something, how do HR guys manage to sleep at night?” before I could react someone else made a witty repartee and all of us on the table had a hearty laugh. However, that remark has been haunting me ever since.

In another isolated instance, one of the employees at work found himself at an interesting juncture in his professional life. I am not sure what prompted him, but he did find it in his heart to approach me with his predicament and solicit my advice on the matter. I listened to him patiently, and together we explored the pros and cons of the matter in hand. I supported him in his quest to find alternatives and choose the best out of the options that he came up with. I sincerely did make it a point to try and make him see the risks involved in the chosen option, and helped him find an appropriate mitigation for it. Alas, the option he chose did not work in his favor, yet, he walked up to me and said, “Thank you”

The above instances give a small peep into the varied experiences of agony and ecstasy that an HR professional goes through every day. On one side we come across employees who for no valid reason find it acceptable to project all their problems onto us; on the other hand we also come across employees who are ready to take responsibility of their professional careers, and take HR’s support to clear out the cobwebs, enabling them to see ahead clearly, even if sometimes the view is not as per their expectations.

The constant need for businesses to grow, be competitive, productive and relevant is rapidly changing the workspace. The employees are constantly under pressure to find solutions that yield quality results faster and at an optimum cost. This is leading to a lot of employees being drained out by the end of the day. This dynamic environment doesn’t leave them with enough time or mind space to actually wait to be serviced by HR. Employee’s expectations from their HR Partners have seen a dramatic change, and it is pertinent that we as HR Partners rise up the occasion.

The technology transformation in the HR workspace has more or less taken over the day to day transactional and operational HR activities. With the advent of Employee Self Service, Cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence, and Chat Bots, the employees today don’t need an HR executive to cater to their day to day needs. A carefully planned implementation of the plethora of IT solutions available in the HR Tech space give the CHRO a chance to balance efficiency and effectiveness. Yet, the challenge is to put the HR resources on hand to superior use.

At this juncture, I am reminded of Robin William’s character in Dead Poet’s Society, in his attempt to encourage his wards to enjoy poetry he says, “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, Law, Business, Engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But, poetry, romance, love these are what we stay alive for.”

While, employees focus all their resources in the pursuit of top line and bottom line targets, to sustain the business, they tend to lose focus on the purpose and the reason why they set out on this path in the first place. It is thus, appropriate that HR resources don’t limit themselves as back end support staff who monitor, operate and maintain HRIS solutions. Rather we should focus our energies in the pursuit of enabling employees see meaning and purpose at the workplace. We can achieve this by –

  • Enabling employees to dream, and find purpose in their profession. Make them see the difference between just existing and actually living their lives.
  • Encouraging employees to leverage their strengths and align their aspirations to the organization’s vision.
  • Making employees ooze passion in their work, their contributions, and their commitments.
  • Giving employees wings to be more daring, and take the road less traversed.
  • Most importantly, shun the judgmental practices that make them afraid of making mistakes. Rather focus on their development. Only then, will they be able to take flight, without the fear of crashing.

Ultimately, as HR professionals if we wish to find fulfilment in what we do, we need to have more experiences of the later kind overshadowing the few experiences that we go through of the former kind.

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