Posted: Tuesday 11 August 2015. Author: Capita HR solutions.
“What is difficult becomes habitual, what is habitual becomes easy, what is easy is beautiful” (Constantine Stanislavski)
THERE is an old story (most likely urban myth) set during the height of the space race between Russia and America. Concerns were raised that that pens could not write in space and therefore taking notes on expeditions was going to be problematic. The Americans subsequently spent millions of taxpayer dollars to research and devise a pen that could write underwater, upside down, and most importantly; in zero gravity. The Russians gave each of their cosmonauts a pencil.
The moral of this story (myth or otherwise) is not to overcomplicate matters. There has been an increasing trend to provide ever more innovative, complex, demanding and intricate HR solutions in the workplace.
Unfortunately these tend to become inversely less understandable and less workable the more convoluted they are. Is it because HR needs to get noticed more, is there an assumption that we become more relevant as professionals if we can produce a labyrinth of diagrams, process charts, tables and spreadsheets? Who knows.
Much like Arthur H Fonzarelli perhaps we are in danger of jumping the shark. Perhaps we are actually now at a stage where we should try and remember the fundamentals that comprise the Tao of HR:
1. Accept the absence of happiness. Sometimes people will be content just to turn up and do a day's work. They don't want extra responsibility or promotion or awards. This is fine. Every successful ecosystem has a foundation of worker ants.
2. Start small. Begin with the basics and work your way up. Identify the need you are satisfying and whether it is important or not. Build a picture of what good looks like, so you know when have achieved your goal. Map the pathway you want to take and then pull together people you will need to get you there.
3. Know a little about a lot. This is different from pretending to be a know all. It means that you should get to know the component parts of your business so you can hold a relatively intelligent conversation with peers in other departments.
4. Simple is best. The more uncomplicated the language you use to communicate our ideas the less distortion will occur. Einstein was near the mark when he advised ‘if you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself”.
5. Accept your limitations. You won't have the answer to everything all the time, right then and there. It's ok to say ‘let me come back to you on that'. Most people will ultimately prefer the right answer in a little while rather than the wrong answer right now.
6. Take time to breathe. Go for a walk, have a coffee or water. Chat to your friends. A few minutes away from the desk can clear your mind and lend a little perspective to what you are doing. And if you just can't bring yourself to do this; don't disparage those who can. A lot of solutions can become apparent over a cup of tea.
7. Stop trying so hard. Too many businesses believe the path to successful employee engagement is found in a desperate drive to provide ‘fun' in the workplace. This can lead to more and more ridiculous initiatives. Seek the balance between enjoyment and overload. Also accept that some staff just prefer their own company or being with their families; it doesn't make them worse employees or anti-company.
8. Repetition breeds success. Much like coaching sports there is no need to invent new exercises or drills every time you step onto a pitch. Repeating exercises and benchmarking against these allows you to understand if your team is improving against a set standard.
9. Be nice, until it's time to not be nice. Give employees the benefit of the doubt where you can, allow them to improve wherever possible but remember that you have standards to keep and an example to set. Most tribunals are won or lost on procedure more than anything else so if disciplinary action is required then it must be dispensed, fairly and consistently.
10. Stop and fix. Don't let mistakes or issues run on and fester. If something is going wrong address it right then and there even if it may cause a slight delay or you might find it unpalatable. This sends a message and importantly also allows people to understand what they are doing wrong in context, in the here and now when it is fresh in their minds and relevant.
As Clare Boothe Luce once said: ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication'.