Updated: Apr 3, 2020
I have recently attended a two-day global meeting for Human Resources Directors from the main United Nations Agencies. I left the Conference feeling divided... hopeful for some of the conversations and reactions I heard and experienced as well as feeling a bit "blue"... The core issue: how to contribute to the necessary reform of the United Nations from the Departments of Human Resources (HR). The part which made me hopeful: their genuine interest on making a substantial contribution to this reform. The part which made me feel "blue": their own confession that they need to define (or redefine) their contribution from a position of "being part of the business", and a certain sadness, as if some had doubts about their capacity to really influence their own organizations.
The meeting took me back to my years in Human Resources and the image which came to my mind was that of HR departments clinging to the tables where decisions are being made as if at any given time someone was going to ask us what we are doing there. That effort to “hold on to the table” is precisely what often does not let us be present and act from a position of service. The question hanging in the air: how to become agents of change and contribute to shape the future of our organizations? I do not have an easy answer neither have I heard any definite formula in any of the organizations where I work, but I do have some ideas based on what I see happening in those places where HR Departments are truly playing the role of “shapers”:
"Raising the bar": Working with much more determination on our own learning and upgrading and becoming more and more professionalized, showing with our example and our presence the change we are asking others to embrace,
Really listening with an open mind, an open heart, an open will… and an open agenda, working with all and for all from an attitude of generosity,
Been, as the Human Resources Director of UNDP (United Nations Development Program) put it "part of the business" rather than being “reduced" to being "business partners"
Putting energy into what works and how to expand it
Seeking and entertaining strategic alliances, and
The most important thing... believing that we can actually play a leading role.
Allow me to add a good dosage of sense of humor –not to be confused with frivolity- and an appreciative look to choose our actions wisely. A cry for a change of strategy has got hold of organizations. The time has come to start treating people differently after this "crisis" which has brought us so many challenges. I hear in different international fora that companies who manage to renew their commitment to people and to create the right environments for employees to give their best and abandon "psychological absenteeism" are those that will succeed and last on the long run. It seems as if “the HR moment” was coming, as if Human Resources Departments will finally have the opportunity to play a key role, that of acupuncture points from which to bring about the necessary changes in the organization. If that is true, it might be the time for us to give ourselves permission to claim our place and to become (or regain) the role of true shapers. If it is true that our time has come, I am not sure there are any certainties on how to go about it... but what I do know is that we have to first believe that we can be legitimate actors and get ready so that we have the "moral authority" to play that role... and also that if we do not do it, we will miss our opportunity to use our energy and our potential to walk alongside the "business" and not behind.