For those faithful believers of the Mayan apocalyptic prophesy, the arrival of 2013 might seem a bit…anticlimactic. The world didn’t end despite their passionate insistence it would. Whoops.
But for those of us who were rooting against a giant rogue planet crashing into Earth and wiping out all life as we know it, or a cataclysmic solar storm that would destroy our electric grid and return us to the Stone Age, today is, like most days in the HR world, a day for tremendous opportunities.
You see, we’ve all been given a second chance.
Not just at life on Earth, but life as professionals in the HR world.
So even if you liquidated all your assets to build yourself a subterranean bunker and stuffed it with canned goods, you can still repair broken relationships in the workplace.
Even if you spent hours watching “Mayan Apocalypse” programming on the History Channel (guilty as charged), you can still take a long, hard look at your employee handbook to make sure it’s not doing more harm than good.
That’s right, you have another crack at it, provided to you by the same universe that brought you the wheel, the remote control, air conditioning and Twitter. So let’s dive in, shall we?
Here’s my post-apocalyptic manifesto for HR in 2013…
Have a Conversation with Problematic Employees
There is no time like the present to tackle a difficult situation or have a difficult talk with a difficult employee. In most cases, the longer you put it off, delaying the inevitable, the more harm that can come to the company. Establish an open line of communication between yourself and the employee as opposed to just hoping that the problem will go away on its own. In most cases, it won’t.
Be candid, but constructive in your performance evaluations, but also reiterate that you are available to the employee if he or she has complaints. And don’t just take complaints – take action on them. Make sure your employees know that you’re in their corner and that you will pursue their interests so long as they are congruent with those of the company.
Have a Conversation with Your Supervisor
It’s always important to speak directly with your supervisor to ensure you are on the same page. In the HR world, an HR professional may report directly to a senior manager, an HR director or even to an in-house employment attorney. Any supervisor can provide you with valuable information and guidance as to your directives. Share information with your supervisor as well. Inform him or her as to the challenges you’re dealing with and your strategies to overcome them.
While you’re at it, have a conversation with those who you supervise. Make sure they are following your directives and implementing the strategies you prefer. Make sure they are educated as to workplace rules and conduct.
Read Your Employee Handbook, Cover to Cover
It’s not quite a “beach read,” but the employee handbook can either be a source of useful, clear information, or it can be a source of discontent. As HR professionals are well aware, the provisions of an employee handbook could be interpreted to create a contract where the employer did not intend to create one. They may even convey inaccurate or out-of-date information to your employees, creating false perceptions and paving the way for disputes.
In certain extreme cases they could even memorialize a company’s illegal or nefarious practices in a way that is tremendously persuasive to fact-finders like judges and juries.
Take proactive measures to ensure that the information contained in your employee handbook is accurate, up to date and phrased in a way that both informs employees of workplace rights and rules, but also protects the employer from backlash.
Stop and Smell the Roses
In my experience, most HR professionals enjoy their jobs very much. They love working with people and solving problems in the workplace. Take a minute to remember that and appreciate it. Stop and smell the roses, now that they still exist having narrowly avoided annihilation like the rest of us organisms.
You are in a field with diverse, vibrant personalities, your main job is to help people and to help your company prosper and you (hopefully) have the flexibility to use your creativity and your problem-solving skills to achieve those goals. Life is good!
But it can be better.
Strengthen the bonds you have with your colleagues at work. Suggest or plan more social events or take other steps to boost employee morale. Encourage teamwork and brainstorming and be open-minded about new ideas you hear from eager, enterprising employees. Reward their effort and their interest with your own in return. It will surely pay dividends, both for you as a professional and for your company.
And now that we’ve acquired a second lease on life, or, at the very least, a second lease on the polarity of our planet, pay homage to the cosmic forces that allow us to continue to thrive as human beings by thriving in your role as an HR professional.