“H” stands for being human and “R” stands for being responsive. Many people have asked me the role of HR especially post the pandemic. If I have to simplify, it is just to be human and responsive to every employee who needs help.
Although, it may look simple, the most difficult things in life are the day to day things, which we fail to do consistently every day. Someone once asked me – “What it means to be a professional ?. I had stated that responding always, keep your time and commitment, dressing for the occasion and being empathetic always.
Today I would think its simpler. Just be human, grounded, accessible and respond to the stated and unstated needs of every employee. During this pandemic, quite a few young employees reached out to me and expressed their concerns. I would share two case studies to share their anguish.
The first was a young employee working in an multinational. She reached out to me knowing that I had retired more than two years back from an active corporate role. When I asked – “Why she reached out to me – she said that I was always accessible and she was sure I will respond to her call. She sent me a message on social media and I did respond.
We then had a call and followed up by multiple calls. Her concern was that “work from home” has ruined her work life and personal life. She said that she had to respond to international calls even at 11pm and her spouse was not amused nor were her kids. She said she was more stressed than ever.
The second case was a mid level manager from an Indian corporation. His query was – why is it everyone is under stress nowadays ? Can stressed employees deliver their best ? He went on to state that this sort of stress neither is good for the employees nor the organisation. Again, when I asked why he contacted me as I have not even met him, he said that some of his friends told him that I would respond positively.
The two cases are symptomatic of what is happening in organisations today. Employees, managers and leaders are all under stress. They are finding it difficult to balance work and life and the pandemic has made it more complicated for them as the line between office and home has blurred.
What can “HR” do to help employees ? I would say – lets keep it simple. HR needs to be human and responsive. They need to be accessible to the employee all the time. They need to be empathetic listeners and employee champions. They need to respond to every employee irrespective of them being an introvert or an extrovert, a junior or senior employee in the hierarchy. I would rather say, HR needs to reach out to the quiet employees much more and respond to their needs.
Some may ask – “What it means to be Human ? “. Being empathetic and responding to every employee by putting yourself in their shoes will make you respond in a human way. If we respond the way we expect others to respond when we are in a crisis, is the human way.
It is like the murmuring of birds in the sky. Nobody knows who the leader is or who HR is. They sway together and support each other when attacked by a predatory bird always as in the photo above. HR needs to be like the invisible saviour of the birds in the sky within organisations.
If we are human, grounded, accessible and responsive, HR will be the function, which employees will hail as their messiah in distress. Otherwise, they may wonder as to why HR exists in organisations ?
It is time for HR to be human and responsive always.
S Ramesh Shankar
30th September 2021