Forget HR Strategy: Get in the Trenches

This isn’t a call to completely forego the HR strategy that undergirds your long term success. However, it is a reminder that some of the things you’ll have to do to ultimately be successful include more than just making plans, developing schedules, and keeping to those guidelines. Sometimes you might actually have to jump in and help. Step away from the flowchart, roll up your sleeves, and get into the thick of things.

A vivid example

In college, I had an HR professor who spent years in the medical industry working as an HR manager. He had great stories, but one he told has stuck with me over the years. One day there was an accident and several people were brought into the hospital at once, overwhelming the staff. He happened to be walking by and saw the chaos, then he realized there was a puddle of blood in the floor from one of the injured patients.

He quickly slipped out of his jacket, grabbed a mop, and worked to clean up the mess. Someone saw him and told him not to worry about it, but he replied, “I can handle this–you guys do the stuff that really matters.”

That story is such an amazing example of servant leadership and not being “too good” for anything the workplace can throw at you. In the HR profession we can easily be a catch-all for things others don’t want to take care of. I’ve been able to use that to improve myself and my impact on the organization over the years.

Other ideas

We’re about to add a handful of new people to our office. They are going to be on a different floor of the building, and none of the current staff will be in their area. My fear is that because they are all coming over from the same employer, they will embrace their own small organization and will not interact with the rest of the team. Once they come aboard, my plan is to spend some time working in a cube among the team.

Initially it will be to answer questions, offer advice, etc. for them as new hires; however, eventually it will be a way to help ensure they are interacting with the right team members so that they and the “old” employees all benefit from the expertise that each person brings to the table.

If I look in a textbook, “sitting with other teams” isn’t going to be listed as a way to deliver or improve HR service; however, in this case I think it’s a valuable tool to explore. 

So maybe you don’t really have to forget your HR strategic planning process or your human resources mission statement, but be sure you incorporate these ideas into your overall strategy. You never know when one of them will come in handy.