HR Observations January 13, 2023

chro harassment hr strategy hybrid work remote work role of hr Jan 13, 2023

[(Scrabble pieces that spell out HR.) Let's start thinking about HR as Human Resourcing.]

Making the shift from Human Resources to Human Resourcing is a small one but it helps reframe the HR role. When HR concerns itself with managing an organization's human resources, it has a dividing effect. It suggests that people are to be treated as yet another resource at a company's disposal like a mineral or lumber and it is HR's job to manage them with a mindset of cost reduction and efficiency. The goal is pay the talent pool as little as possible. It's to push people as hard as possible without breaking any labour laws or getting sued. It's to provide enough training to enable people to work more efficiently but so much that you'd have to pay folks more based on their more robust skillset.

When you see yourself as resourcing folks on the other hand, your mission is to give them the tools to let them do their best work. You pay them enough that they don't worry about financial security and can focus on the work rather than look for a better job. You train them well knowing that you are in this relationship for the long-run and that you are building the next generation of leaders. You provide management training to give people the tools to create a good work environment for others.

Poor HR practices come from a scarcity mindset where you think if you treat people to well they will take advantage. They will take of their new skills and leave to work at the competition. They will take advantage. In fact, the opposite is true.

If you work in HR, who is providing you with your direction? If it's the finance department or legal, your job is going to be harder. Perhaps 2023 is the year you make a business case to the CEO or board that healthy people systems and practices are the key to successfully executing strategy and that the long term ROI is strong.

Let's make work better for everyone.

[31% of employees are worried their employers are planning budget cuts and layoffs. Among folks in product management, that number rises to 46%. (LinkedIn 2022 Survey) What is the impact on productivity and innovation?]

We live in an information driven society. We all see the inflation numbers, economic projections, recession speculation, and layoff numbers. Employees are nervous.

One of the best productivity tools is clear communication. Worried employees are not in their best thinking brains so if you are not planning layoffs, let folks know. And if you are planning cutbacks, do it quickly and compassionately and let those who remain in the company know their jobs are safe. The threat of layoff should never be a management tool used to elicit harder work. Threats to our financial security push us into flight, flight, freeze or fawn and take our focus away from caring for customers or innovative thinking.

And please make sure that layoffs are an absolute last resort and not a way to bolster some number on a spreadsheet. When shedding people becomes your go to solution, you will only ever have transactional relationships with your employees. The current push to make non-compete clauses a thing of the past is in part a recognition that the old corporate contract with employees is dead and employees need to be able to find work and financial stability. If that means taking ideas they developed while working with you to your competition, so be it. If you want to keep those ideas in-house, you can always pay folks more and offer them a job they can count on...

Let's make work better for everyone.

[Leading causes of workplace burnout: Unfair treatment at work, Unmanageable workload, Unclear communication from managers, Lack of manager support, Unreasonable time pressure (Gallup 2020 Survey) Rest and vacation are important but it's not just about time off.]

76% of employees experience burnout on the job. The go to solution is to give folks more time off but overwork is just one of the causes. Gallup's 2020 survey showed that unfair treatment at work, and unmanageable workload, unclear communication from managers, lack of manager support, unreasonable time pressure are the main driver's of burnout. Wellness benefits and time off can help but they put the burden of burnout correction on the employees rather than on the management practices that need to change. All of the grounding and breathwork practices in the world cannot undo a toxic work culture and at some point employees will leave or become sick.

If employees are showing symptoms of burnout (lack of engagement, avoidance of work, increased conflict, fatigue, illness) it's time to look at your management practices and systems. Time off and increased access to wellness resources are part of the solution but if employees come back from a pause to a workplace filled to dysfunction, burnout will return.

Real change happens at a systems level. How can you change the way your employees work?


[Maybe what we really need to focus on is workplace unlearning]

I cut my teeth in the workplace learning world as the training and development manager for a Fortune 500 manufacturer in the early 90s. Back then, it was all about increased workplace efficiencies and re-engineering systems for higher profitability and performance. We treated people like machines who had an infinite capacity for work. The only workplace harm we really recognized was carpal tunnel system. There was no sense of regenerative work, preventing burnout, or recognizing different learning styles.

We gave managers the tools to police and micromanage their people, not recognizing that it's little more than workplace bullying.

We helped managers hire for "fit" not realizing it was a cover for discrimination. We then ran orientation sessions to help employees understand the culture and "fit in."

We trained managers to discourage employees from asking for a raise.

We created rewards systems that reinforced dysfunctional behaviours and short term results.

Oh, and we did team bonding activities like "sumo wrestling" and trust-falls. 😳


Thankfully, the workplace learning environment has improved since then. There is an acknowledgement that workplace training should accommodate a variety of learning styles. There is an awareness of biases in workplace learning that advantage some people and disadvantage others. There is an awareness that people thrive when they are encouraged to learn and grow on the job. There is recognition that people are human beings and not a resource to be mined.

We've come a long way through unlearning. Still, there is a long way to go.

What can you unlearn this year? What training truths can you question? How can you audit the systems on which you rely to make sure they are not causing harm?

Let's shake things up in 2023 and make work better for everyone.

[70% of managers expect candidates to negotiate salary. (Robert Half 2019 Survey) The question to ask is why?]

Some folks are comfortable negotiating a higher salary. And for some jobs like sales, where negotiating skills are important, perhaps that makes sense. But when companies have a blanket policy to offer less than they are willing to pay, it disadvantages folks for whom asking for more does not feel safe. There are baked in discriminations in this practice that create lack of equity in a company and create dissatisfaction and poor morale down the road.

Plus, it sets a transactional tone for the work relationship from day one.

The key to creating better people development and talent management systems that don't create harm is to see it from other perspectives. Question why things are they way they are. Do as much learning as unlearning. Think about how decisions will play out a year, five years and ten years down the road.

If you need help creating harm reducing people development systems, let's talk.

[38% of employees experienced harassment while working remotely.  (Allvoices The State of Working Remotely, 2022) Don't assume everyone is thrilled to hop on a Zoom call...]

38% of employees have been harassed while working remotely. Marginalized folks are more likely to face harassment. Bullying is real whether it's in office, hybrid work, or remote work and Zoom calls can be triggering. It's important to set up systems to help employees report toxic behaviors. It can also be helpful to help employees feel safe and supported during Zoom calls. 

Here are some ways to create healthier online work spaces:


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