Faster than aspeeding stenographer. More powerful than aromas from the cafeteria microwave. Ableto solve employee problems in a single day.
Look over inthat cubicle! It’s a salesman! It’s an administrator! It’s…an HR professional?
Believe it ornot, in HR, we all have the opportunity to be heroes in the workplace. We canbe heroes to the employees who come to us with problems. We can be heroes toin-house or outside counsel when it comes to defending the employer againstwrongful termination or discrimination claims. We can even be heroes to uppermanagement when we identify wasteful or problematic business practices.
But in order tobe heroes, we must develop certain skills. Superpowers, if you will. Andluckily enough, developing those skills doesn’t require a tryst with aradioactive spider, decades of training in ninjitsuor a stroll through the nearest intrinsic field subtractor.
Superhuman Listening and Empathy
While the son ofKrypton may actually have superhuman hearing enabling him to hear thingsthrough walls and across great distances, we mere mortals simply have to do a better jobof listening. When employees come to you with complaints or to report feuds with other employees, listening to what they say isonly part of the solution. HR pros need to empathize, put themselves in the employee’s shoes,and take effective action to correct problematic working relationships whereappropriate.
The directive tobe a better listener works both ways. Employees need to be better listeners too and it’s our job as HR professionals to help them. When you provide performance evaluations for example,the information you provide must be specific and actionable so that employeescan use that information to make improvements in their work habits. HR pros need to be candid and constructive, not cryptic and obstructive.
In this context,being “nice” is the antithesis of being heroic if it means withholding how you really feel about the employee and his/her job performance.Listen intently, be empathic and be honest when you provide feedback orpotential solutions to problems. Your employees will appreciate it.
There are some individuals out there with acondition called hyperthymesiawhich enables them to remember…pretty much everything. Askthem what occurred on May 14, 1984 and they will tell you what they did thatday, what they had for lunch, what the weather was like and what kind of toothpastethey used that morning. This kind of power can be a gift or a curse, dependingon how fond you are of your childhood memories.
But if you don’t have hyperthymesia, youcan still have super-memory as an HR professional by utilizing stringent documentation anddocument retention procedures. The key here is to be proactive in building records and personnelfiles, as opposed to creating an evidentiary record when it’s already too late.
HR pros should keep notes of conversationswith employees, particularly if they make complaints or if they have to reprimandor discipline them. They should take steps to ensure that hard copy anddigital records are secure and protected and they should work closely with theIT department to ensure that digital records are stored and backed-up.
Simply put, don’t rely on your memory ifyou don’t have to. Even Batman reviews hisnotes.
Tony Stark, the man behind the Iron Man suit, is renowned (in the Marvel Comics Universe) for his ability to innovate and invent the technology needed to power and operate the suit. Bruce Wayne, the man behind the cowl, is similarly renowned (in the DC Comics Universe) for his inventiveness in utilizing the various tools that Batman uses to fight crime.
In HR, you don’t need an education from MIT or billions of dollars and a mansion with a natural bat cave to be an innovator. You just have to think outside the proverbial cubicle. On occasion, that means looking into the future to determine what issues your company will face and taking corrective action in the present to forestall the coming doom. This type of forward-thinking would make Dr. Manhattan blush…if his skin weren’t blue.
The Periodic Acknowledgment is one such innovative tool you can use in the present to prevent a future employee apocalypse. It forces employees to communicate with HR about issues in the workplace on a periodic basis and proactively collects information from employees about misconduct or problematic business practices that could lead to future disputes or litigation.
So what heroic deeds have you done today, HR superheroes? Share your stories in the comments section below.