Many people looking from the outside may feel that the HR department exists for the benefit of the company and not the employees. They may regard human resources as some sort of super nanny that governs the actions of people who work there. In reality, a company with a strong HR department will support employees and promote trust--not fear or mistrust.
If you don’t work in HR, your understanding of what HR does may be somewhat hazy and nebulous. Stereotypically, you might think of HR as the principal’s office (a place no one wants to visit) or the fun police (limiting your fun activities).
While some corporations may use human resources to take advantage of those who work for them, competitive organisations support employees, not use them for every drop of effort.
Today’s Imagination Age moves at a breathtaking pace as the business world attempts to keep up with technologies. It’s a sad reality that many managers expect employees to do more with less, and not to complain about it. People are thought of as mere capital, and the goal is to squeeze every ounce of productivity as cheaply as possible. It’s times like this when HR is more important than ever.
CHANGING THE NORM TO CREATE A BETTER WORLD
Employees are more stressed than ever. A European study found that 79% of managers were concerned about stress, but fewer than 30% of organisations had a plan to help employees handle or overcome stress.1
Stress changes the neural architecture of the brain, including structures such as the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. When the amygdala is exposed to chronic stress, alterations in structure may result in PTSD-like symptoms and increased anxiety. Chronic stress causes shrinkage in the dendrites of medial prefrontal cortex neurons (dendrites are the branching part of brain cells), potentially having cognitive effects and disruption of circadian rhythms.2
PEOPLE ARE MORE THAN NUMBERS ON A SPREADSHEET
People are more than numbers, and employees increasingly expect strong professional development that steps away from the norms of the past. However, the thinking around the world is increasingly on the side of businesses, instead of the people. In America, a series of lawsuits in the Supreme Court has led to the notion that corporations have rights, just like people.3
Corporations are becoming increasingly powerful, and they can use this clout to influence all aspects of human life, from health care to politics to education. As employees are required to do more and more, with less time and resources, what is the role of the HR department?
NOW IS THE TIME FOR HR TO SHINE
This is a pivotal moment for the planet. Instead of fulfilling the role of a “nanny” that controls nearly every aspect of a work environment, HR professionals have the opportunity to cultivate an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. Companies that embrace this philosophy will lead the way to a more equitable world where human talent is valued instead of discarded.
HR professionals (and leaders in general) should:
- Be good communicators. Communication is the key to every interaction. Take good notes and be present when you are speaking with others.
- Show enthusiasm. The best way to break old stereotypes is to show how wrong they are. Strive to show joy and enthusiasm at work, and don’t be surprised if your attitude is infectious...in a good way!
- Be flexible. Everything changes, sometimes before you can catch your breath. Procedures change, new people come in, and even company goals may be adjusted.
- Be compassionate. Managers and HR professionals alike can seem to move on autopilot sometimes, going from one task to another without much regard for the humans around them. Stop for a moment, no matter how busy you are, because compassion is a glue that will hold a corporation together.
- Be creative. Big results come to those who think big. Your creativity is likely an untapped resource. Everything that has ever been achieved started as an idea, so imagine what you can accomplish if you trust in yourself.
- Develop your consulting and counseling skills. HR professionals are often asked to spend their time setting up processes and doling advice when problems come up. Take some time to focus on your own leadership and consulting capabilities to move from good leadership to great leadership.
Leaders working in HR should seek to make changes based on science, rather than the “flavour of the week”. When people let go of the stereotypes of what HR used to be, positive change can come about. Long-term changes require significant effort, and with knowledge comes power. Learning how to support the brain and body is necessary to provide quality, ethical, authentic leadership.
1. European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. European survey of enterprises on new and emerging risks: managing safety and health at work. European Communities. Luxembourg. 2010. Available at: https://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/reports/esener1_osh_management
2.McEwen BS, Bowles NP, Gray JD, et al. Mechanisms of stress in the brain. Nature neuroscience. 2015;18(10):1353-1363. doi:10.1038/nn.4086.
3. Winkler A. ‘Corporations Are People’ Is Built on an Incredible 19th-Century Lie. The Atlantic. 2018. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/03/corporations-people-adam-winkler/554852/