Here’s the first understatement of the year: 2012 is shaping up to be a doozy—especially for HR. Is there anything that touches the headlines that won’t directly impact the way you do your work? As I write this, congress is wrestling with payroll tax negotiations. Our returning veterans need to rebuild their lives—preferably employed in the civilian sector. Immigration. Healthcare. Unemployment, of course. The fact that the country has never been so divided in an election year since, perhaps, the Civil War. Only this time it won’t be brother against brother. It will be coworker against coworker. And the one question that influences so many of the decisions we’ll make: will the economy expand or contract even more in 2012?
Want to make a quick buck next year? Here’s what you do: print up a bunch of t-shirts that read, “I survived the storm of 2012.” Only this time the storm is 2012.
As much as HR will probably be the corporate function most affected by the goings on of 2012, HR is probably the profession most equipped to take it on. HR is used to operating in an atmosphere of constant uncertainty. You have to pack a philosophical approach to the people side of your operation to help your enterprise achieve its business objectives. And you’ve been pivoting on a dime for, what, how long now? While everyone else will be in a panic because the plans designed on last quarter’s projections aren’t panning out, you’re rolling up your sleeves to take another whack at finding a wiser approach to the changed scenario. That’s what you do.
You save jobs. You save businesses. You save families. You save communities. You help make dreams come true. And now, you could use a little extra support as we all walk into 2012. So in the spirit of providing HR with some comfort and joy for the upcoming months, I spoke with some of Florida’s best HR leaders to discover what they would recommend to be the best resolutions for HR in 2012.
“I resolve to be a force for positive change.”
(Bill Eggert, VP/HR, The Florida Aquarium) Change is upon us. And it’s only accelerating. The question is how will you represent it to your organization? As the HR leader it’s up to you to somehow encompass the mission-driven passions and business-driven objectives of all your stakeholders. And then communicate your organization’s next best steps to your disparate constituents so that they all endorse your initiatives. It’s up to you to set the tone for this new environment of managing rapid change. You can be the driver (using the power of your position), or the leader (using the positive power of your influence). Guess which approach is more effective. And more inspiring.
“I will focus on retaining our fantastically wonderful people.”
(Mary Cheddie, SVP/HR, Interval International) According to a Right Management survey, 84% of the employees in the United States say that they will start looking for a new job next year. HR leaders are already anticipating it as a “resume tsunami.” We typically think of tsunamis as the massive, incoming wave. But the first part of the tsunami is that devastating, sudden outgoing tide where astounded fish flop on dry sand as far out as the eye can see. Are you expecting an outflow of resumes to devastate your own beachhead and dry out your talent pool? If not, you might want to check your assumptions. This is the time for you to collaborate with your communications department and leadership to remind your people of the unique ROI of their own career investment in your company. Look for ways to reignite their passion for your organization without extending promises you won’t be able to keep. Find ways to explain the difficult business actions that you had to take in previous years that might have left them feeling undercompensated or underappreciated. Look for new opportunities to reinvigorate their passions and commitments to your business, even if community, belonging, and development are the best rewards you can offer right now.
“I will remain focused on the longer term objectives.”
(D. Hunt Hawkins, EVP, Stein Mart, Inc.) Are you going to be an expert in the emergency minutiae that will come zinging at you from all directions in 2012? Or are you going to take the role of the steady hand and head that will see your company through the storms, successfully arriving at 2013 with objectives met and talent cadre intact? Your role is to be the calming influence in your organization, reminding all your people of the company’s big picture objectives and direction, regardless of the interfering emergencies that threaten its destination along the way. It will be your influence that will keep all your people focused on the big picture strategy and what matters most.
“I will dedicate my energies to understanding the business I’m in.”
(Jay Kuhns, VP/HR, All Children’s Hospital/Johns Hopkins Medicine) That steady hand and focus on the big picture strategy can best be communicated when you step out from behind the HR role and assume your full role as a leader of your business. When you talk about the business strategy, talk about the business strategy, not just the HR part that will implement it. If you’re going to use jargon, make it jargon unique to your industry, not to the HR function. Know the broader issues and contexts of your business and be able to speak fluently about it to your business partners. This will be the way you will be able to communicate your value to the people whose support you need most to keep the people side of your enterprise a healthy one.
“I will keep my attention laser-focused on the critical few.”
(Matt Henson, VP/People, OSI Restaurant Partners) Know the difference between what is essential and what is merely fascinating. The fascinating distractions can come in a variety of forms—emergencies, for instance, as we’ve already discussed. They can also come in the form of someone else’s problems or urgent solutions to problems you won’t think you have. Or they will be “nice to do’s” which will take your focus away from the “must do’s.” Know specifically and clearly what you will want to have accomplished by year’s end, no matter what else will be thrown your way as the months unfold. Make sure you and your entire team understand how those “critical few” objectives will continue to foster customer and community loyalty—differentiating you from your competitors. By focusing on those “critical few,” you will be the master of your year, rather than finding yourself at the service of all things that 2012 will bring. And by December 31, everyone will still know who you are, what your business is, and what you stand for.
“I will keep my passion for the HR professional fresh.”
(Wendy Harkness, CPO and Chief Legal Officer, National Restaurant Development Inc.) And now we arrive at the most important resolution of them all—staying passionate about your HR career and the wonderful gifts it brings to you and everyone you serve. Do we get a little sentimental here? What the heck, why not? It’s New Year’s, after all. This year, give yourself the gift of passion and preserve positivity as your core approach to facing 2012 head on. There will be plenty to tempt you toward negativity. So you may have to look a little harder than usual for those reassuring, uplifting reminders that the people side of business is where the heart of your operation resides. You are the keeper of that flame. The shepherd of your company’s culture. You’re the one in charge of doing right by both the people and the successful enterprise you’re all working together to create. No matter how long you’ve been in the profession, there’s just no getting around this simple fact: there’s simply no better corporate function than the people part. Keep that thought in your heart and head as you march bravely into 2012. Happy New Year. You deserve it.
Martha Finney is a consultant and speaker who especially loves engaging HR professionals.
She has authored 17 books on employee engagement and HR career management, including HR From the Heart, with Libby Sartain.
Contact Martha at martha@ hrcareersuccess.com