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This has got to STOP!

I realize I may be a bit late to the party on this one, but my thoughts and feelings about this issue have been percolating, brewing, festering, etc. for weeks now. I had been debating writing a post about the sordid history of Donald Trump and his many actual and alleged ‘interactions’ with women. In fact, I was planning on writing an entire post on Trump himself where I would dissect his leadership skills, and in particular, his track record when it comes to the issue of harassment. But then I decided, no, Trump isn’t the issue; this is much bigger than him (despite what he might think). This is a much larger societal issue as a whole.

trumpIn fact, this entire affair (pardon the pun) with Trump really caused me to reflect on my almost 20 year career in HR to see if perhaps I was as gripped in on the issue of (sexual) harassment as I should be. I decided that the answer to that is NO. I need to be better. We, as HR Pros need to be better. We as managers and leaders need to be better. Society needs to be better. Here is the thing, this is not something that should be laughed off, ignored, tolerated or put up with any capacity. Harassment IS a major issue in the workplace and in general. I have had many conversations with female colleagues and friends over this issue (especially in recent months) and it is SHOCKING what they have had to put up with in the workplace and in their careers. I am not going to write about the specifics that were shared, but suffice it to say, if I did, this would be an R-rated blog.

By the time (or even IF) something is brought forward as a “complaint”, there have probably been multiple instances of harassment that should have been reported, addressed etc.; so, by the time we as HR Pros are dealing with an issue, we better damn well take it seriously and address it properly! Here is what I have learned and what I think I know from my experience in dealing with workplace harassment and most importantly, from speaking with women I know who have had to deal with this issue:

  • (Sexual) Harassment is NEVER just locker room talk. There is no such thing. (Sexual) harassment is wrong, should never happen, and is NEVER done as a joke. It is about power and control – that much isn’t even up for debate.
  • It takes a ton of courage for a woman to bring forward a complaint about harassment. They have suffered in silence, dealing with the issue many, many times before they summoned the courage to log a formal complaint. They often debate and decide to not say anything as they fear the repercussions of bringing a harassment complaint forward are not worth it.
  • We need more from our profession, managers and leaders because ultimately, in terms of how workplaces are defined and how harassment is handled, comes down to a leadership issue.
  • As an HR Pro, I need to be better. I need to be better at understanding the extent, depth and pervasiveness of this issue. I need to be better at how I address it. Upon some serious self-reflection over the course of my career, I think I have been guilty of being too conservative on the consequences. As HR Pros, we (present company included) need to take a stronger stance and stop worrying so much about what the harasser ‘might’ do if the punishment is too strong (especially if that includes termination). Let’s start taking a stronger stance on this issue. In our roles, we have the power to do this. Let’s use this power to create better workplaces.

At the end of the day, I am going to commit to being more aware and more cognizant of this issue. I will be better. I will work harder to be better at what I do when it comes to addressing harassment. I will admit it – I am ignorant…but I am learning. Thank you Donald Trump for making me think more about this. (Can’t believe I just wrote that.) Now…who’s with me? As always I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr.com

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The HR identity crisis

Those of us in HR have an identity crisis. There, I said it. I think admitting it is the first step. Seriously though, everywhere you read, go, hear, etc. all you hear about is that HR needs to be more strategic. HR needs to add value. HR needs to have a seat at the table. HR has to be a “business partner.” Oh my god – it is enough to make my head hurt. The more HR professionals I speak with, the more I believe we are truly in a crisis situation with our professional identities. Well, maybe “crisis” is a strong word; let’s just say we are in a precarious situation.

We have to keep in mind that there a couple of distinct groups in the HR profession. There are those HR Pros that are part of larger corporate teams – i.e. upwards of 15-20 HR staff in a given HR department. Then there are the HR “departments” of one or two individuals. Both groups have similar challenges with their professional identity, yet both have some different ones. The HR profession has been making a successful move, in larger groups, to establish “centres of excellence” (COE’s) and shared services groups. Essentially, transactional items like payroll and benefits administration have either been outsourced or established as part of a leaner, shared services group. Likewise, many corporations have also made the move to shift recruiting out of HR and make it its own stand-alone function – again, leaner and meaner. The end result is that now HR is supposed to have all this time to be “strategic” and move forward with all kinds of strategic HR projects that will allow our companies to be the next Google.

600px-Hello_my_name_is_sticker_svgFor smaller companies and/or HR departments with only one or two people, there is nothing to move away or outsource. These smaller departments have to do it all – process payroll, administer benefits, recruit/hire, onboard, etc. So are they any less strategic than their peers in other companies that don’t have to do these transactional or seemingly trivial items? I say seemingly because it is us (HR) as a profession that uses these labels to diminish the work that we do – not our operations clients.

The funny thing is, if you ask the managers and employees of your company what they feel is the most important thing that you do, I bet they could care less about your strategic HR project. They want to get paid on time and accurately and they want to make sure they get their performance review and pay increase on time. If you can make that happen, I bet they feel you are being pretty darn strategic!

Seriously though, my point is this. HR pros have to stop diminishing the work that they do. The main thing is that you need to make sure you always apply a forward thinking (strategic) approach to your HR practice as a whole. That is, if you are applying a continuous improvement mindset to your practice (i.e. figuring out ways to save the company money, improve a process, free up company resources, etc.) than you are being strategic. If you are coaching managers to become better leaders, or if you are working diligently with your leadership team to ensure your performance system is helping to effectively engage employees in the achievement and reward of meeting their goals, than you are being strategic. If you are keeping abreast of the latest changes in employment law and occupational health and safety legislation, thereby ensuring your company has the necessary programs, practices, policies, etc. in place in order to be compliant, than you are being strategic. Finally, if you are doing things like keeping on top of social media changes and coming up with a plan on how to leverage SoMe in your recruiting practices and making sure your LinkedIn company page is active and relevant and providing your company with an active talent pipeline, than you are being strategic.

So HR Pros, my message to you is this. Give yourselves a break. For many of you, what you are doing now IS strategic. This profession of ours is a journey, not a destination. Make sure you aren’t being the policy police – that is most definitely NOT strategic. However, if you are applying a business lens to everything you do, that is, you are making sure your HR practice aligns with business goals, than you are well on your way to being strategic. If what you are doing is helping to find qualified people, reduce turnover, reduce absenteeism or is essentially solving some sort of problem your business is facing – than you are being strategic. Now, go get yourself a coffee, you deserve it!

What about you? Do you think HR is too hard on itself with this whole “strategic” identity crisis? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

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