The Sacred HR


By Umer Raza Bhutta

When you are in HR you are not only into a day to day work, you are not going to office to spend a 9 hour day to fulfill your usual things to do list. When you are in HR you are doing more than that. You are in a profession which has things to do list, carrying ingredients and a mental framework of a Prophetic Profession. You hold on to the trust of your people, their confidence, you keep many secrets in your heart, you make policies and first become a role model to show others to make possible implementation of these, you spread the message, you become almost the first and the only one to know about any good or bad news coming up and you are the one who become the front line decision-making unit to make and break not only career but also many lives associated with that one career.

As an HR leader in your organization, you can cultivate a deep trust, a confidence that sets you apart from everyone else in the company. Maybe even from everyone else in your community. As HR profession, if practiced through using head and heart together cannot be practiced only in office, but it keeps you tuned up even offline. Most HRs hold in their hands more than even their CEO. Why? Because the information that they hold in confidence has multidimensional implications for the company, its future prospects, its growth potential, and its position in the marketplace, and, last but certainly not least, for the effect that all this has on the personal life of every one of their employees.

When in HR, you must realize that, first and foremost, you are responsible for people’s livelihoods. The decisions you make determine people’s futures. Every day you make plans that affect individuals on the most intimate levels. Every time you choose between one candidate and another, the decision you make sets off a chain of events that determines the rest of their lives, even that of the candidates you never see again because they’re not a right fit for your company. You play a vital role in the decisions such as, whether an employee stays or goes, who gets promoted and who doesn’t, who gets a raise and who doesn’t. By establishing the compensation guidelines or advising management, you influence who gets a generous raise and who doesn’t. And you make all these decisions in a larger context of understanding the internal structures and secret plans of the company as a whole. If you’re doing your job well—and if you’re running your career well—you are going to know a lot. And you’re going to know it before almost everyone else does. You’re going to hear what businesses your company might be getting into or out of. You will be one of the first to know when a plant will be opening or when a plant will be closing. Maybe your company is going to stop making a certain product. These are all important things, and you are going to know them before almost everyone else, before the people you have lunch with, the people you meet in the meeting rooms, in the parking lot, all those people who are making the comfortable assumption that their job is safe. And you have to smile and chat over your sandwich and tea, all the while knowing a Big Secret that’s going to turn their whole world upside down. But you’re not ready to say anything. You are bound by the SEC to say nothing to anyone until you’re ready to say something to everyone. These are the moral and ethical filaments of your calling. The good news is that most days you will not be facing such a crisis. But there may come a day when you’re face-to-face with your most closely held principles, and you must also represent the corporate conscience to senior leadership that isn’t necessarily in the habit of thinking through the human ramifications of its decisions. Suppose, for instance, that you know that senior leadership is thinking about abandoning a certain product line. Okay, so far so good. But a year before the company is ready to close the line, the head of that division leaves for a different job and you must fill that spot from the outside. A search is conducted, and you’re about to hire a replacement. You’re inviting that person to leave a perfectly secure position, uproot his or her family, if the person is to be hired from a different city, and to make all of these life-changing moves without knowing about the impending shutdown. What do you do? The line must still run profitably, it needs a leader, but how can you justify the ruination of an otherwise successful career? Because of your HR perspective, you may be the only one who realizes that personal lives and healthy careers are at stake with this recruitment. So you approach someone in senior leadership who knows as much as you do and shepherd the company through a difficult decision-making process: “Do we really want to do this?” Then you use your position and power to guide the decision-making process in a way that’s both smart and right. That is your sacred trust, because only you are in a position to understand and truly know the entire situation and its ripple effects. And by speaking up, you may be the one who is looking out for the company’s long-term objectives without compromising a candidate’s personal and career interests.

This article is an extraction from the book “HR stories from Heart” by Libby Sartian with additions of personal experiences by Umer Raza Bhutta Chartered MCIPD

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