For those who have spent years lamenting the absence of "a seat at the table," you no longer have to wait.
The table has come to you.
It may not be surrounded by the trappings of elegance for which you had hoped, but it's here.
Unenviable But Unbelievably Visible
I'm not an HR person; many of my clients are. I'm watching as more of the responsibilities with which they had hoped to be entrusted during the good times are now being thrust upon them wholesale during the tough times.
This is an opportunity, and here are five activities that I believe make it so:
1. HR people at all levels (at least the ones that I work with) are being included--out of necessity--in decisions impacting the financial well-being of businesses. Their presence and participation will be noted and remembered by the executives in attendance. At the same time, HR folks are increasing their business acumen and value as a result.
2. Participation in difficult staffing decisions.
I've never met anyone who actually enjoys reducing headcount. The ability to evenhandedly participate in those decisions--consistent with business strategy vs. personal baggage--reveals much about character, discernment, and the ability to focus on long-term issues of importance. My observation: Everyone knows that losing a job isn't just "losing a job." We're talking families, education, home ownership. . .
This is the single area (in my experience) that reflects one's depth of intellectual and emotional maturity. And those involved in your process will remember the considerations you voiced during the process.
3. Guess who is being asked to explain many of those decisions?
There was a time when explanations of tough things were the purview of managers. Then again, so was hiring and firing. The ease, confidence, and clarity conveyed during small and large group meetings will go a long way toward understanding (you can't guarantee acceptance) the corporate position. The results of these meetings translate into perceptions of leadership and communication expertise. (Check those executive competencies on whatever your favorite assessment tool happens to be).
4. Mediator of conflict.
For those of you who wanted to get into HR because you are a "people person," welcome to the world of totally ticked-off people. The ability to fairly negotiate the inevitable disputes that come from excess tension is no small task. But it's hugely valued.
5. Counselor to the fearful.
If your reputation is one of trust, the line has already formed outside your door. Quite frankly, this can be the most emotionally draining part of the job at any time. It may also be the most un-acknowledged by upper management. But for the people seeking to make sense out of confusion, you are likely to be the single source of truthful information, a non-judgmental ear, and the willingness to use both. So use them well.
My bet: There are many more scenarios with which I'm not familiar. Expand the list and weigh in with a comment.
And use that visibility well.