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Our FreeForm HR Executive Forum: Dealing with Current Issues and Feeling Beat Up! by Suzanne Elshult, Your Executive Coach, HRNow

hr-yak-finl-160-100Once a year my HR executive peer group  has a freeform session (instead of our typical format which tends to anchor the conversation in a theme). It is always exciting to not know what issues will pop up. This year we covered a number of interesting areas, but two in particular caught my interest. One had to do with how employers respond to current issues, such as Ferguson. We discussed several optional responses ranging from ignoring, to simply communicating awareness to actually communicating a company position. Here are some of the points made by the roughly 12 HR executives that were in attendance. What additional points do you have?

  1. Transparency is generally good so just acknowledging that an issues exists may  be preferred to just ignoring it. Having a company point of view may actually create more problems than it is solving. Nevertheless, we need to be prepared when our CEO asks us: What should my position/share with employees and the public be?
  2. While you may choose a neutral stance, you cannot ignore security and safety issues arising from current issues such as Ferguson. For example, one of the attending HR executives from a company with offices in Berkley had to close down the office a few hours early several days during the recent protests.
  3. Dress code issues may come into play. What if you have a no t-shirt policy and employees come in with t-shirts saying “I cannot breathe.” You have to be proactive and know how you will respond when issues come up.
  4. Current issues usually present a great opportunity for HR executives to bring up difficult questions for discussion with the CEO and leadership team, and there may indeed be a unique opportunity to forward some action. For example, when Satya Nadella made some unfortunate remarks around women in the workplace, good healthy discussions ensued in many organizations on this topic.
Jonathan Maltos, VP of HR  with Big Fish Games and myself, PLUS one of the early game characters

Jonathan Maltos, VP of HR with Big Fish Games and myself, PLUS one of the early game characters

We also had some meaty dialogue around how we can keep the engagement of ourselves and our teams up when there is a lot of change and you and your team may even feel as if you are constantly being beat up? Here are some ideas that stuck with me:

1. Change the story? Don’t fall into the victim role. Focus on what the opportunity/challenge is and see how much you can actually move the needle.

2Get excited about what is possible.

  1. 3. Share ownership with others by taking a systems approach….know what you can and cannot control. Articulate your story and find ways to share it. Noone else will do your PR for you.
  2. 4.Hire the right people with the right attitudes.
  3. 5. Change the why into a how. For example, instead of asking yourself why did the manager do this to to me, ask yourself how do I work through this? Try to adopt a mindset of curiosity instead of judgment. Hear beyond yourself what is important and how it ties into a bigger picture.

6. One executive shared that he frequently ghost writes for his CEO to get appreciations for his team. Not only does his team feel more appreciated but the CEO is actually becoming more knowledgeable about what HR is up to and how it adds value to the business.

What else can you think of?


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