Steve Browne and I are quite often aligned in our thinking about the human resource profession, the role of HR in an organization, and how we as individual practitioners can bring about change…one action at a time. We also both share a great desire to truly understand our organizations at their core and I know that Steve enjoys ‘getting out in the field’ as much as I do.
But all too often HR practitioners lock themselves away in their offices – heads down in their cubicles or comfortably ensconced behind glass partitions. Some HR staffers believe in wielding power via registers and log books and require that employees sign-in when they went to meet with a staff member. Occasionally the hapless employees may have a space in which to chill – a waiting room quite possibly furnished with naugahyde chairs and back issues of Better Homes & Gardens that Janice the Benefits Assistant brought from home.
But I digress.
I got to ruminating on this topic this week as I had the opportunity to handle some tasks for another employee in my organization. It’s one thing to wander about, observe the goings-on and chat with an employee about the day-to-day work experience. It’s quite another to actually sit down and perform an employee’s job. Now this was not a one-shot deal as I tend to do this quite frequently but for some reason the experience this week really resonated when:
- I interacted with a customer base with whom I don’t regularly come into contact
- I ‘managed’ some customer satisfaction moments
- I observed some external market forces (trends?) that impact our business and service delivery(which led to some further ideas and brainstorming with the employee), and
- I ultimately learned a bit more about this particular employee’s work environment, job and even some of his specific motivational factors
A pretty cool experience.
I’m not saying that all human resource professionals need to learn to do every job in their organizations; I certainly know there are a ton hundreds quite a few in my company at which I would fail miserably. BUT…what’s the harm in trying to develop a deeper understanding? Something that moves beyond reading the completed Job Analysis Questionnaires that are sent out every few years when it’s time to update job descriptions?
We in HR need to be able to interpret the context (the business context!) in which our organizations operate. We need to regularly and continuously scan both the internal and external environment. And in order to further the attainment of our organizational objectives we certainly need to understand the issues that impact our industries, communities (local or global) and our companies.
What better way to start that journey than by taking a hike in someone else’s shoes?