Halloween costumes are great. You get to pretend to be somebody that you're not.
You can be a famous character. Maybe you like to dress up as somebody spooky, or like me, maybe you get roped into dressing up like one of the Adam's Family, so your wife is happy with your costume contest chances...
Or the time my wife made me dress up as "Aunt Lydia" from the Handmaid's tale.
It's all great.
One of the challenges in human resources is that we constantly face is the fact that we have to put on a mask or a costume in order to do our job at times. A lot of times people perceive us as the company representative, or the principal's office, and in order to do their jobs, many HR professionals have to compartmentalize the work that they do.
There's a lot of stress in our jobs. A lot of times, we have to make decisions that are very, very challenging. Sometimes, it doesn't feel like there are a lot of winners at the end of the day. In order to compartmentalize, a lot of us put on a mask or a costume when they walk into work. I can't tell you how many times I've had a conversation with an HR professional who comments that they feel like they can't be themselves at work, or that HR is simply the job that they do.
But the HR work they do doesn't reflect the choices or the decisions that they make within their personal lives. So my question for an HR professional out there who feels like they have to put on a façade, or a costume or a mask, when they walk into work is this: WHY?
If your employees don't feel like you are authentic, human, understanding, and empathetic, they won't come to you. You won't be a resource for them. You'll just be another person in a role that makes decisions about their livelihood, that has a huge impact on them.
A lot of times I hear the argument that HR is supposed to be on the side of the people, or I hear HR is supposed to be a representative of the business. HR is supposed to be a part of the business strategy to improve culture, improve the people, and support the business and all of its success.
That means that if an employee brings a complaint to HR, HR helps support that employee and the business to come to a win win solution. It's not about which side are you on, it's about the perspectives you support.
HR's job should be to review these things in an empathetic and humanistic way. That means you can't be wearing a costume or a mask in the workplace. You can't compartmentalize human resources in your real life. It's all intertwined. Eventually, if you put on a mask or a costume at work, every single day that you go to work, you're going to burn out, you're going to crash and burn and it won't be fun. You'll either end up leaving the profession because you just can't handle it. Or you're going to be a really terrible HR practitioner.
We ask our employees to be authentic, we ask our employees to bring concerns to us. Human Resources needs to have that outlet as well.
Get connected with other professionals, either within your company or outside of your company. Learn about how to be appropriate and authentic, but also reflect your role. Ask yourself when you walk into work. Are you being true to yourself? Are you being authentic? Is your headspace in the right place so that you can hear somebody's concerns and have empathy for them?
You need to understand the concerns of the business and some of the decisions that are really challenging for a business to make. Then you need to support and help an employee understand and then connect those two things together. Help an employee understand the logic of a business decision. Help a business understand an employee's concern in an empathetic way, and then work to address and build trust and respect within your organization and within your team.
The best way to build trust is two words, competency and character. The only way to have competency is to practice and learn and get better. And the only way to have character is to be authentic and real.
And in the spirit of Halloween. It never hurts to have a jar of candy in your office.
In the Rebel Human Resources Podcast Episode 4, we discussed how HR has changed due to COVID, and the countermeasures HR is deploying to adapt.
One of the biggest hurdles our employees have faced is how to balance work, life, and children returning to school.
Molly Burdess' opinion is: I really think the nine to five workday is changing. And I feel for all parents out there and I feel for all employers out there and I just think this is going to be really hard. I mean, if you're in an industry where you can work virtually and offer flexible schedules, I mean, that's awesome. But there's a lot of us that can't and I'm one one of those that we have frontline associates and I am not sleeping because of it.
But, how can we manage the people requesting to work from home? Patrick Moran says we're allowing it in a lot of in the positions that we're able to. We have a group of people that still have not come back since March 16. You know, we encourage them to come back, we've already made a lot of changes in departments where people sit close together, where we've created extra spacing, and have actually moved people in different areas in our facilities. That way, there's at least more than 10 feet of space in between, we just don't have cube farms. I mean, that's not a thing we've ever really had any way. If there are people that have a relative or their son is sick but can't get tested, and they just want to stay home and work all over the world.
We had all employee meetings recently and we flat out said, you know, we're gonna be we're gonna do our best to be flexible. We understand everybody's going to have these types of situations especially with daycare and school. You know, as long as we all work together, we'll be fine. Is it gonna be painful here and there? Yeah, it will be painful for supervisors, maybe some work, we'll get out, you know, a few days later than our goals. We're all in this together. People I think just need to be a little more understanding of that as an employer we're trying to be, and we want to communicate that to our employees.
There is a concern that some employees will take advantage of the situation, but I choose to believe the best in people, and I would rather be more flexible in the situation of working from home for the greater good of all employees.
Molly said: You're doing better than I am Patrick, this is something I've really struggled with, because we have a small group of individuals on our team. And we're pretty much all leaders that can work from home and the rest of our staff is working with the public like hands on in the public. Personally, I just really struggle that to be a good leader. I can't show up to my office every day when I'm asking you to go out and work with the public.
Patrick said One of the areas where I struggle sometimes is our Manufacturing staff that can't work from home. It's a situation where it's a school closure, and maybe they're not a high wage earner here yet they have to be home on two thirds pay for two weeks or whatever. If your daycare closes, yeah, that hurts. It hurts the pocketbook, and it hurts them. And that's all that they can do. And we're gonna run it. We have ran into it, we're gonna run into more of it. And you got to take a case by case right? It's all you can do.
I'm curious to see the work from home impact after COVID has gone. I think that the the employers that can figure out ways to effectively work from home and continue to maintain teamwork, collaboration, productivity, efficiency, all that are going to be in a position where they're going to have the pick of the talent pool versus employers that can't. For the employers out there, I strongly encourage you to think about the ramifications there.
My organization, as an example, did not do work from home before this, threw together a policy in like a week to try to address some of the things that we thought might come up. And and now this thing has just has just dragged on. But we're also seeing challenges where the team is not collaborating as much. We're seeing some some work challenges where people used to have conversations at the watercooler happened by someone's office and having a conversation to solve a problem that they were facing and, and just just the general camaraderie of the office. You know, I'll be curious to see how our workplace changes but I'm concerned that if we do too much work from home, we're actually going to become very impersonal and it could actually be bad for the culture.
Molly Burdess said Yeah, I think we as HR and just leaders have to be very intentional about our culture and that as well, what I'm seeing a lot of is people obviously when you're communicating in person, you have body language, you have all that other stuff. So I've been really intentional about really trying to over communicate what is happening, what's going on. So we're seeing that as well. One thing I want to add Kyle, because there's a lot like me, my staff, they can't work from home like there's no way that we could work from home so just wait I keep going back to is like, okay, when if this comes, how can we get creative with schedules to allow them to be able to do what they need to do with their family and at their home, and then also still make a living. So I think that's probably what we're going to see in the organizations that really don't have that option to work from home. Just get creative. One question I have, the end of the 40 Hour Workweek?
From my perspective, I take the opposite view. I think we're going to have a 50 plus hour work week for people working from home because they can't shut it off. That's one of the other concerns. At home, I'm always at work because I have work available all the time and I could, I could literally deal with something work related 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So you know, I get into the the work life balance concern, and everybody needs some level of rest. And if they can't get some level of rest, I get concerned about long term sustainability as well.
I think if you have a job like HR or a job where your your mental state is a significantly important part of decision making and moving an organization forward and making sure that people are safe. If you're constantly under stress, and you don't ever get a break, you're going to start making bad decisions.
Public service announcement of the day, everybody take a break. Rest. Or, drink at noon like Patrick.
If you are an essential employer and you and or you don't have the ability to offer work from home, to your employees, you need to do the best to make that culture comfortable to work in, and you need to make sure that people feel safe going to work or you're gonna lose people. You know, might be okay, you might be okay. When unemployment is like 8% to 12%, depending on your region. Have you guys seen a spike in turnover?
Molly Burdess said yes. In my industry, what I'm finding, especially when we came back when we were close for two and a half months, they're like, I love to be at home. I want to be at home with my kids. So they stayed at home. So we are in that side and my other retail location, not necessarily. I think another thing we can do as employers that can offer employees work from home aside from just being as flexible as possible for schedules is offer more paid time off paid leave. I think that could be and should probably be something that we could do. And then really just continue to talk about why we're here and what our purpose presses in this world, especially him in everything that we're doing right now.
Patrick said That's been extremely tough. People were bummed out, they can't sit at in the break room with their friends and eat lunch anymore. People were bummed that they had to sit up their workstations are just at their desk. Yet, we're not giving them the Wi Fi password so they can use the internet on their phone. There were so many little things like that, that we recognized. It's tough. We've tried to be reassuring. We've tried to send communication emails and memos or letters to employees multiple times a week and we're still trying to do that. We're probably doing it bi weekly now just reassuring them on what we're doing. We were constantly telling them how much we appreciate them. Our Salesforce is stuck at home, they can Be out right now. I think they're just slowly starting to get back out into our industry, which is healthcare as doctors offices slowly open. But yeah, it's been tough. We're just trying to do our best with paying attention to people and reassuring them. We can't bring in snacks anymore and things like that. The other day we brought into taco truck. It was the first time we brought in food since early March. So that was nice. People loved it. We're gonna do another one tomorrow. Any little thing you can try to do to show appreciation is, I think goes a long ways. We also have an employee incentive program, that we're seeing supervisors incentivize employees a lot more with prizes, and that's been helpful. Molly, what are some of the things that you're doing?
Molly: Yeah, so I am in an organization where we have several different locations. And I have been, I have found the key to culture is working with our leaders, helping them understand how to create a good culture because it's really the little things that they do. So a lot of training, a lot of just giving them ideas on here some things that you can do, and also helping them understand people's mental states and how to, there's a lot going on and they need to understand how to support their employees through at all. Otherwise, we're you know, we're doing things we're trying to virtual happy hours, we're doing a lot more all associate calls and just really trying to over communicate as much as we can. And it's crazy, you know, the biggest thing I think a lot of employers should have thought about and hopefully they did is the decisions that they were making through when all this first hits how that has an impact on their culture today. I just read this actually the other day, and it said there was there's been over a 70% increase in Glassdoor reviews mention mentioning layoffs and how they handled them. COVID that crazy?
Patrick said, Crazy. You said earlier, it's just so interesting, interesting about being close with the leaders and educating them on, you know, what to look for and pay attention to your culture. And this isn't a knock on leaders in any organization. But it's a situation like this pandemic, that really opened your eyes on how far removed not all of them, but a few leaders and managers and maybe even some of them on the frontlines, were removed from the actual culture and what's happening with the employees they they even interact with daily. And I think that's one of the best things that come out of this pandemic is how eye opening. This has been and we're paying attention more at least I hope and it looks like it with the conversations I continue to have with all of our managers and leaders is I'm seeing them pay attention more, which to me has been refreshing and I think to anybody in an HR type of role.
It's very difficult to To build a culture when you're dealing with the level of concern and fear and societal unrest that we're dealing with. But I think the other thing that I've seen is, especially with working from home, but as I've been dealing with employee concerns, is employees have to be much more authentic with their concerns than they than they did in the past.
We are asking questions of people that are probably uncomfortable, maybe a little bit personal or trying to understand how we can help people through the stressors of their life. And so, being open and listening for me and for my leaders in my company has really forced us to get to know our people better. From a culture building standpoint, how do we how do we turn that into intentional and clear support of our employees outside of work in a way that helps them want to continue to work for me, right, which is really easy to say on a podcast.
To actually do that day in and day out, it takes a lot of rigor and focus. It starts with the frontline leader. It starts with the person that gets the concern brought to them about child care, or school or an ailing family member, or themselves. Then that supervisor doing the right thing, being empathetic and bringing that to the person that can help foster the appropriate response.
If you do the right thing for your team today, and you treat your team right today, that will pay off tomorrow.
I'm the Vice President - Human Resources for CPM Holdings, Inc. In this role, I oversees the aspects of Human Resources for 27 domestic and international locations in 11 countries. I've previously held progressive HR roles for Fortune 500 organizations.