This week I am attending the WorkHuman 2015 Conference in Orlando, Florida. The goal of this conference is to help companies find ways to create a community of support and positivity that brings greater meaning to everyone’s work lives. I’ll share what I learn here and on Twitter (@mkfaulkner43 #WorkHuman).
Any time you go to an HR-related conference, you meet amazing people, are exposed to new (and old) ideas, and get a sense of what life is like in others’ work worlds.
You also inevitably hear complaints.
This is not unique to an HR conference. Get any two people who work for a living together and they will start complaining about their office, or their boss, or some process they hate. It’s human nature to vent, and conferences are a breeding ground for it because this is a new group of people who has never heard our stories before. And we love a fresh audience.
What does strike me at the more recent HR conferences I’ve been to is that the stories have moved away from the “You won’t believe what this employee did” variety to more of the “I don’t think I can do this anymore” variety. HR professionals are feeling stretched thin, trying to juggle the ongoing demands of changing regulations and administration with the increased pressure to be strategic and bring value, and oh, by the way – plan the company picnic.
In short – HR is burned out.
They are sick of hearing about how they are the problem. They are sick of hearing about how employees are their problem. They are sick of employees complaining about their bosses, and they are sick of hearing managers complain about their employees.
They’re also tired. HR people don’t always get a full night’s sleep.
So why does this matter to leaders? Why should you care if HR is burned and cranky?
Because that HR person needs to have your back. They need to help advise you on the right decisions to make. They need to help you balance dollars and humanity. They craft the strategy that helps attract and retain your talent, and they hold you accountable to those promises you made during that all team meeting. They also help you deliver difficult messages with grace, keep egg off your face (if you let them), and have some pretty great ideas about how to help the business reach the next level of awesomeness.
And if HR is burned out…they may be less inclined to do those things for you. Sure, they’ll make sure the employees are paid and legal, but you won’t get all the extras that you take for granted.
In a morning keynote, Arianna Huffington spoke elegantly about the power of renewal – of putting the care of ourselves first so that we can facilitate the care of others. She compared it to: “In case of emergency, place your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” It results in better health, better innovation, better creativity, and better productivity. It results in RESULTS.
HR is often the worst at taking its own advice. We work through lunch. We come in early and on weekends, we stay late to meet with employees afraid to meet during business hours. We respond to emails at all hours of the night because an executive forgot to tell us something that we really need to know before that meeting in the morning. We do this because many of us are martyrs who think we have to. And we do this because we care that things are done to expectations.
This comes at a cost.
Leaders – don’t take HR for granted. Help them set the example that the rest of the organization can follow. Tell them to go home on time. Tell them to stop responding to emails. Don’t enable their need to please. Help them set boundaries…and then allow them to KEEP those boundaries. No one gets to break that rule. No one.
In the end, you will have more effective HR, more effective employees, and a more successful business.
And HR conferences will be filled of fun stories again, instead of good people at the end of their tether.