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Working in HR (or any profession) day in and day out implies many of us start taking the basics for granted at some point. Wan Ezrin, chief people officer at TIME Dotcom, jots down a thoughtful yet hard-hitting take on what HR leaders and their teams must never take for granted.
In HR, we need moments for reflection. So in this article, I want to share some high-level principles when we decide that we want to have a career in HR. These are things we take for granted, and often forget – especially after pampering ourselves with repetitive so-called cool HR ideas.
Integrity is a given first
Working in HR means that we must be whiter than white. We must work and behave in a way that people do not doubt our credibility and do not doubt our integrity. We are indeed the examples of ideal employees in the organisation we work for. Code of conduct and discipline are a given when you are in HR. Neither do we breach the above, nor do we put ourselves in situations that will make people question our self-worth as HR practitioners.
There are dozens of examples, but here are a few big ones – coming in late, leaving early, having long lunches and going missing is totally unacceptable. Lying and not telling the truth is unacceptable. Hiding non-delivery in the shadows of other people’s work is unacceptable. Discrimination and giving a cold shoulder to people is misconduct.
Gossiping and spreading negative sentiments is unacceptable; signs of a weak mind and immaturity. Writing intimidating and negative comments on social media also indicate insecurity, and most of all – cowardice. Such people do not think of the consequences, especially since top management and the board may remove that employee from the organisation upon seeing such behaviour.
Remember: what you say, you cannot take back. When people decide on your credibility – that will stay for a very, very, very long time. Insubordination is a serious misconduct. Going against your superior’s instruction (even after a positive debate and you disagree) is wrong, and indicates insubordination. Trying to cut corners and manipulate situations when your superior is not watching may be triumphant at first, but will soon be caught. All the above can tantamount to dismissal.
Technology: Use, don’t abuse
Internet is given as a tool to help work. It is wrong to spend so much time on the Internet to the extent that we don’t deliver what is expected of us. It is worse to look for jobs during work hours. It is terrible to watch marathons of random YouTube videos when your stakeholders are expecting you to deliver work.
Work your salary’s worth, or more
Bigger salaries means bigger accountability and bigger contribution. The higher you are in the chain of command, the more you will be scrutinised on your contributions. The higher your salary, the more gigantic the microscope you will be put under. This is what a high-performance culture looks like.
Differentiating “cool” vs. meaning
Look at the cool companies today with awesome HR practices. Look at the expectations within these organisations. Don’t just look at the “coolness” of these organisations. Remember, they are only cool only because they are successful. And that success stems from intelligence, creativity, immense discipline and intense hard work. In return, what is given to you is the freedom before and after work hours.
Work and life needs to be balanced: granted. People have families, commitments and responsibilities outside, so we should honour that. There are occasions times when your boss may need to contact you outside work hours. These situations are not frequent, and superiors should apologise when this happens, because there are urgent needs.
For an employee who is highly disciplined and committed, their track record is transparently displayed, and their credibility is built; if they have a personal emergency, and they have to leave early or take emergency leave – that is totally fine. After a while, the superior will already have a good perception of that particular individual, based on consistency of behaviour.
But when an employee is repetitively showing dodgy behaviour, then it will not be easy for the superior to be sympathetic or empathetic when a real emergency happens. Most of us have read or heard of the story – The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Applying for leave means to ask for permission. You don’t just go and say to your superior that you’re taking leave. Use the system and wait for permission. If your superior is late in response, remind him or her; or use WhatsApp correspondence.
I will usually 100% of the time approve leave applications. Rare exceptions are made when there are urgent business needs. But I expect that people apply, get permission, then go. That’s what the system is for. That’s how we practice integrity. That’s how we become example employees of the organisation. That’s how you protect yourself from getting questioned in disciplinary inquiries.
How flexible should we be?
Leading by example is a non-negotiable when one is in HR. If one wants all out flexibility and easy going KPIs, then don’t work in a high-performance organisation. Don’t be a burden to a team that wants to soar high. No HR practitioner is great when he/she employs an all-out relaxed approach to the job. Those who excessively promote this are either hallucinating or lack a good understanding of what being incredible is all about.
It is like saying: Real Madrid practice football in their living room couches whilst watching videos, drinking milkshakes and eating pizzas. Saying they will be successful in football by making this an encouraged practice is pure lunacy. We need to be very, very serious in our game. Being incredible is about executing cool ideas with integrity and hard work. It is not about pretending to be cool and promoting laziness and mediocrity.
The universal dream
The dream is to have an HR team that is highly driven, creative, positive and happy. We want to make a difference. We want to become game changers, trail blazers. We don’t want people in our team getting indulged in self-praise, because you are only great when a significant number of people outside HR, inside and outside the organisation say that you are great, after multiple successes, again and again. Stop praising ourselves just because we spent a lot of time doing petty work with little impact.
Those with capabilities and positivity will thrive in any decent work environment that encourages performance. Those with capabilities but carry negativity will suffer. They may do the job half way or half cooked or make simple things look difficult, or spread that negativity; but if they don’t meet expectations, they will be removed.
Those with lack of capability but carry positivity will also struggle and will have a hard time, because our division is not just a collection of cheerleaders. “I tried my best, but with little results” is not acceptable.
We don’t measure effort (…there are exceptions), but we measure results. We measure impact and meaning. We measure effectiveness and efficiency. Decent brains and strong execution is needed in a high performing team.
Real Madrid does not have goalkeepers with no hands and no legs. Ask ourselves: is it discrimination to not hire goalkeepers with no hands and no legs? No, because that salary is being paid for performance, and nothing short of performance.