In general, we long to resume the in-person habits and routines we often took for granted: the extended visit to the bookstore to peruse magazines; the biweekly date night; the casual trip to a retail store to refresh to window shop or survey the inventory; or the impromptu movie and post-show meal a friend or three.

Behind the anxiety to “reopen” the economy is the need to define and resume the new “normal.”  But those habits and routines that we long to resume–both within and outside of the workplace–are the same ones which have come undone during this stay-at-home period.  We have adapted to not doing them and finding acceptable replacements.  Sure, we will splurge for nostalgia when shops, venues, and workplaces reopen en masse, but this is certain: the experience will not be the same.  So why return to normal?

Why not stay the current course and embrace our new habits and routines?  Perhaps the time is right to reimagine the old way of doing things.  Yes, the costs will be different, but the returns may be far improved.  Consider the following:

  • Efficiency and engagement gains through expanded work from home arrangements and more flexible work arrangements, in general;
  • Reduced travel costs associated with trips and transactions that can be done remotely; and 
  • Renewed focus on instructional design and delivery at the elementary, secondary, and university levels.

Undoubtedly there are flip-side costs associated with all of the above, including lower levels of socialization and personal interaction and less physical activity.  But embracing new habits and routines does not mean abandoning the best of the “old ways.” 

The future beckons us to blend the best of the new and the old.  Such is the essence of growth and development.  It requires being open to new ideas, challenging the usual ways and means, and remaining flexible and resilient during change.  If the new “normal” means a renewed seriousness about pursuing these and other required traits for success, I definitely don’t want to go back.  What about you?

Not  That  Kind of Professional Help

“Good HR” is not about providing answers to every question or solutions to every problem.  It is about helping others — at all levels, whether independent contributors or senior executives — explore the most viable options and, then, to  implement the best one or ones.  You don’t have to be a mental health professional to be an effective HR person.  You just need to care . . . genuinely.

During my 25+ year tenure in the people business, I’ve had many opportunities to  demonstrate responsible caring.  Our craft requires a delicate balance on protecting the interests of employees, managers, and organizations.  Often, the interests of these entities collide.  Sometimes they crash spectacularly.  At those moments a “good” HR professional intervenes to restore sufficient order to preserve self-esteem, goodwill, and grace for all involved parties.

When conflict arises, so, too, do opportunities to practice civility and compassion.  Someone must, and that “someone” is usually a member of your HR team.  Whether formally or informally, we are trained to mediate–that is, to listen actively, distill facts, remain objective, and counsel with empathy.   We are trained to be advisors and confidantes, with on the job experience as the bulk of our training.  The most challenging of circumstances are our labs; our beloved colleagues and coworkers are our best trainers.

So who does your HR team visit when they need guidance or the ear of “good” HR?  The simple answer is: HR.  Yes, even the most effective HR professional needs HR–a sounding board and attentive ear.  We know because we’ve been on both sides of the stand (or couch).

When the dust settles, we relish moments to reflect on lessons learned, often in the form of debriefs with multiple people, both individually and collectively.  We store mental and physical documentation of findings for or own or others’ reference when new (or similar) situations happen.  We repeat the “caring” because that is what “good” HR does.

That was my friends response after I told him that I was an HR consultant.

We hadn’t seen each other in a while.  So when we got beyond the usual niceties and questions about the well-being of our wives and kids we started talking about work.  The last time we had spoken, I was still with my previous employer.  After I updated him and told him that I started my own business, he said, “doing what?”

“HR consulting,” I said.

“What’s that?,” he replied, with a curious, cautious expression.

“Well, there are many organizations, especially small and medium sized businesses, that don’t have HR departments. If they do, they are not as structured as in large companies (my friend works for a large corporation) and they may  need help managing their processes.  That’s when I step in, to provide HR expertise on a consulting basis.”

And that’s when he said . . . well, the title of this blog.

Admittedly, I was both surprised and not by his response.  After all, not many people understand the full scope and impact of human resources operations within organizations, including their own.  In general, most people often think of two words when they hear “HR,” almost always as an inseparable pair: hire and fire.   No, I don’t have any verified studies to back up this claim–just over 20 years of experience and feedback from colleagues within and outside of the profession.

To many, HR professionals are typically the bearers of bad news, the grim reapers of the organization.  What about you?  Think of your own experiences when you were notified of a meeting and informed that “HR” would be present, or when a member of your organization’s HR team requests an impromptu meeting, or when “HR” stops by your department for an impromptu visit.  We have the power to extinguish laughter and good times, to quiet a room upon entry.  It’s a power that my colleagues and I have learned to accept and embrace – while  exercising discipline not to wield it irresponsibly.

So what does HR do when they are not hiring or firing, or preparing to do either?  Why is HR important?  I encourage you to speak to your own HR staff.  Or contact us!!