Making HR More Credible04 Apr 2023
Human resource professionals work on the front-line in any company. When connecting with people in this way it is difficult not to pick up the subtle signs. The side glance from an employee on a corner desk. The silence from staff members when you ask for their opinion. The tension when you walk into an office. It’s the subtlety and subconscious nature of the signs that makes them so powerful.
Ask any HR Manager doing the rounds and they will tell you. They feel it in the air. They recognise that something is wrong. Their gut can pick out the red flags. This is a common feeling in HR. One’s gut is often a litmus test. It’s an indication that something is not quite right. It raises the red flags. Yet one is often left with a dilemma. How can one base a discussion or, even more so, a decision on a gut feeling? How will this be received? Then again, how can one overlook this uneasy feeling that something is up? Isn’t that what HR is there for? Protecting the staff. Offering a safe space. Listening and working on ensuring a positive culture across any organisation.
Most HR front-liners will have felt the frustration this creates. How to prove what I am feeling? What do I have to do to be believed and when I am believed how to proceed?
HR is never easy. It poses difficult challenges and calls for tough decisions. Not everyone is comfortable taking tough decisions. In fact, most are not. Even when the red flag is flapping in our face we will find many doubters who will disagree with us. Each case has its own peculiarities yet each situation will have its own way of wearing you down. It challenges our credibility and tests our resilience. Many cases often result in a lose-lose situation which will lead to a clear erosion of trust in the organisation’s ability to create a safe culture for those that work within it.
I have struggled with this question often enough in my career and have understood that my word is often not enough to bring a point forward. After the tsunami of emotions that hits you when staff members come to you with a challenging issue have subsided, the next question is often what to do with the information. How to package it and how to take it up with one’s superiors.
Over time I have recognised that I needed something else to build my arguments. A tool that goes beyond wisdom and experience, although that helps. A tool that speaks the same language as to the finance people and CEOs. Numbers could be my solution. But where on earth should I begin? My relationship with numbers is abysmal – I am a people person. How can I use them to be credible?
After much thought and a sincere effort to drag myself out of my comfort zone, I decided to dabble with People analytics. Oh wow – the world of analytics. I was hooked. Daunted yet intrigued. No more drama, no more emotional conversations, just numbers and dashboards which told a story.
My gut was correct. The engagement scores made sense. The leave history and trends added up and the attrition rate and sick leave rate pointed me in the same direction. By cross-analysing I was able to build a case to start the process of investigating a particular department. This time, I was confronted by a very different reality. I didn’t feel like I was up on the stand defending my gut. I didn’t need to get emotional. The numbers and insights spoke for themselves. I was simply the messenger. Almost instantly I was able to bring an argument forward without fear of being ignored or challenged. Who would have thought that numbers would actually make all the difference? They not only gave me credibility but gave me the safety to bring my case forward. I was speaking the same language now and I was being listened to.
Author: Mikela Fenech Pace – HR Consultant, Executive & Team Coach