If you are thinking this article will be about glorifying HR (Human Resources) and play down everything else that happens to be an essential part of the business, well you may be slightly disappointed, but if you want to know how and why people were, are and will always continue to be the core of all that we do as humanity; in that case, this piece is something that might just interest you! So let’s move ahead!
No matter how much few businesses want to keep shouting from the roof tops- automation, AI (Artificial Intelligence), Virtualization, autonomous technologies, well they can continue doing that, there is nothing wrong about it, but they seem to forget the fundamental aspect that even to build the frameworks that provide automation and allied technologies what is necessary is the human mind which is ingenious, innovative and relentless! All our future technologies will only be as good or bad as the thinking minds behind their development and yes, there have been instances when the envelope has been pushed to far and lead to disasters (read Boeing 737Max and Air France Flight AF447 disasters) where rushed-through technologies rapidly implemented and executed and puzzled human minds- leading to ambiguity when it was not needed with fatal consequences!
The key point that I am trying to make here is that human mind and people are the essence of every organisation and every business activity that we embark upon and in times like these when business are preparing to rebound, if there is any one thing that they should possibly focus on doing right,- It will be hinging their come back strategies and actions around the people space within their organisations and for that, they will need to deploy their strategies through the HR pivot! So let’s see what utilization of HR as a pivot can possibly look alike!
Whether you are an organization of 25 people or have 10,000, the urgency and necessity of developing a come-back strategy with people at the core of it, only grows in importance and relevance with the size of your business and people involved. Whether that size is measured in terms of market goodwill, product/ services range/ nature of business or the quality of people, each of these and many such attributes matter! I share with you few areas where the HR pivot can be deployed to bring about that much needed acceleration and doing away with unwanted business complexities which tend to develop around every come-back strategy. These complexities are at times genuine and unavoidable, but many a times are co created to defeat certain emerging scenarios by virtue of hidden narratives and insecurities arising from the people who are likely to be impacted by the developments!
While using HR as the pivot to come-back, here are a few basic approaches that come to my mind, you may like to add/delete a few depending on the specificity of the challenges that your business and people face!
My HR pivot choices:
Business Enabler: When HR is used as an active pivot to enable business, it accelerates the come-back and fuels direction and purpose like nothing else! The given caveat here though is that the HR teams must know the business and be able to provide HR solutions and point of view which contextually help and empower business decisions, consider there is a requirement to have 50 more workers in the plant to boost production of safety gear- here if the HR is aligned to the business and has in-depth understanding- it will be able to understand the complete impact of hiring 50 people- if the business seems to be diminishing away in next 12-18 months and hence can possible avoid the hiring or provide a solution which meets the requirement in a more apt manner- say temporary staffing rather than a full time association- which will eventually wipe off the profitability coming form the project once the sales begin to fall off! The more aligned HR is to to businesses in terms of knowing the products/services, appreciating the market place factors and behaviors, the more equipped will it be to provide sane and wise advise to Business teams and ensure that no unwanted expenditure occurs and the whole circus of hiring and firing people can be avoided to begin with as much as possible! But as I said, Knowing the business is vital and as simple as this statement may see, this is as complicated as it gets and one of the primary reasons of failure for HR teams worldwide- when they don’t get the correct understanding of the business of their organization right!
People Empowerment: This is one of the foremost pivots that organisations who value their “people” tend to often use, the effectiveness of this however will be much dependent of the earlier pivot and how well the HR team understands and knows the business of the organisation! People empowerment also becomes less effective when the “people on the team are different” from the “people on the paper”! Many organisations deploy hiring strategies which are archaic and old school, quite a few hiring managers seldom show expertise on the technical side of the job for which an individual is being interviewed- one may argue that- you have a technical round for that and that team is best suited for evaluating those skills- well may be- but when it comes to articulation and the ability to communicate and discuss technical aspects of ones’ business with other people (which will be an ongoing process on the shop floor or the service floor) this blend of non-technical and technical skill and quality of engagement will be crucial to determine whether an individual will be successful or not and if yes, by what measure! This blend can only be understood by HR teams as they are supposed to be trained to read the non-technical aspects and when that is complimented by a thorough understanding of business and positional nuances it just makes the job that much easier and you know watch time that you did not miss a right talent and you have not hired a right person for a wrong job! Always remember there no wrong people, but jobs for which they get hired are either too much for them to manage to too little to challenge ! Apart from this, empowering people on an ongoing basis also becomes possible- once a fine understanding of people and the work is developed, in an instant a trained HR eye can spot who within the team is being under-utilized or over-utilized and how best there can be a rejig(minimizing and doing away from the whole effort of hiring from external sources- which you can read as additional costs- costs of time and money). Effectively done “people empowerment” works wonders and propels come-back strategies of organisations like nothing else!
Visible Leadership: Crisis or not visible leadership is crucial for driving resources forward and keeping everyone glued to a business goal or objective irrespective of ongoing distractions that an organization may be facing. The HR plays or rather can play a vital role here, for helping the organization decide who that face of leadership will be at what level. This statement may surprise you, but that is a fact, Leaders who become Leaders because pf the position that they hold, may not always be a great choice to communicate en mass with people to teams during times of crisis- because not only content of the communication matters, but it also matters from whom it is coming! Consider you have a unit leader who has risen through the ranks pushing behind a few senior members on account of individual performance, now if this person was to lecture the team on “collective responsibility” and need to work together, imagine how many of the team members would really be keen to take that kind of shit from that person! Hardly any! Well, that’s the point, depending on what is the problem type and what the crisis level is, the HR can guide organizations on who will communicate at what level- it may be the second- in- command of a team or a Supervisors or a Foreman with over three decades of experience- doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is that there has to be Leadership which is visible and more importantly listened to- not only because of the opposition but also because who they are as perceived by the majority! which may or may not be the same person as leading that specific set of people! These visible leaders are always there within an organization and a trained eye can spot them and know when exactly to leverage their latent value for helping the organization race ahead!
Communication Strategy: As skewed it may seem, but a glued in and synced HR team also counsels organizations about the communication strategy that needs to be deployed, whether it is about asking people to work more, work less, asking them to take delayed wages, wage cuts or layoffs, whatever the communication, during a crisis, if any bit of this vital space gets into hand of someone who is amateur and not so sure of what has to be done with the content provided- expect heart- burn, legal issues and unwanted headaches and damage to the business brand as an employer! Organizations are managed by people (as yet at least) and as long as people are involved- people will come and go in all shapes and sizes of mental fitment! As I said in paragraph above, positional leadership is of little consequence if the ability to influence is lacking and authority gained by authenticity is limited! Hence a good communication strategy has to be not about the content of the message, but the Who, When and How of it and these can be answered by HR teams well enough once they are deeply synced into the business developments and unfolding scenarios of it! When crisis hits; fast and , clear action seeking or providing communication is of utmost importance!Sure enough organizations have PR teams to do this bit,if they tend to be disconnected from realities and are left finding more for literature in the content of a message rather than meaning, the whole purpose will be lost and the resulting ambiguity will do more harm than not having sent out a message!
WE: Perhaps this is the most important step wherein the HR can be a true and perhaps the only pivot that can unify diverse teams, process and people as required to ensure that localized and team level distractions are minimized as much as people and the larger and grater objectives of the firms are upheld and pursued after! An active, proactive and preemptive HR can appreciate the power of the “WE” pivot. This pivot which binds people and the organization in one thread is powerful to ensure that larger business objectives can be pursue and achieved seamlessly and other challenges can be overcome simultaneously on the way! For this pivot to work businesses need to empower their HR teams! This is needed so that the HR teams can lead people in a more dynamic way and are not kept restricted to their age old archaic spaces of HR Operations and allied functions! When HR is empowered enough to partner with business in an equal measure and lead the “WE” part there in nothing that will possibly block the way of an organization hell-bent to make a recovery and make a strong come-back with a definitive statement!
I will leave you here, perhaps you may want to add a few things, remove a few things and devise new ways to ensure that your businesses teams or HR teams or functional teams that you are part of play the role of being a pivot in a way they can to ensure that your businesses start to make that one much needed U turn to be aiming back to the growth finish line! Lastly no matter what your business is, how big or small your firm is, how simple or complex your business is, if there are people involved , you will rest assured need “people specialists”, for they know much better than anyone else on how to create value from latent energies that lie stored within each working soul in an organization! The HR pivot which is sharp and at work is a blessing that can make all the difference to establish your firm back to it’s cherished spot or make the firm struggle for quarters to come with no end in sight, dousing one fire after another as the business tries to come to grip with changing dynamic businesses environments!
Ciao for now, I leave you to think and reflect, add and delete and maybe you start working on the vital pivot that serves you right! I will back with another piece soon, until than have your Coffee!