Saturday afternoon the gloves came off.
The last session of the HRevolution un-conference, introduced in my previous blog, was called “The Future of HR”. It was facilitated by the incomparable Mark Stelzner, whose admitted purpose was “to be provocative and shake the room up a bit.” His mission was well accomplished, and the passionate discussion was described by @KristaFrancis on Twitter: Great minds *don’t* think alike and that’s a good thing. Mark summed up the discussion on his blog, but I want to focus on this particular statement:
There was a great discussion on how people need to quit their HR jobs if they are that miserable. In other words, stop complaining and lamenting your non-strategic role and instead find a company that values your contribution.
Why does it pain me to hear and read that people who want to make a difference should just quit their jobs and go elsewhere? Because it’s a strategy that’s far too over-simplified, and the consequences of failure are too dangerous for that simplification. I speak from personal experience.
My Personal History
I come from a small (less than 50 employees) food processing/manufacturing plant. My husband and his partner own the business. When I began working there, no one knew exactly what my role was going to be. I fell into an HR function almost immediately, because there was NO HR function there at all. I started learning, and I made myself a HR Manager/Generalist. I had a seat at that strategic table, usually at the head. I made those P&Ls sing.
So why did I leave in June 2008? Because I had a nagging feeling that there was more evolving to be done, and I couldn’t do it where I was. There is only so far you can go in a really small company before some of the work becomes redundant, and some becomes impossible. So I quit (read: no unemployment benefits) and went looking for a company that would “value my contributions”.
It’s now November 2009 and I have yet to find that company. Telling a recruiter or a hiring manager that I left my job because “I needed new challenges” makes them hang up on me. Layoffs and downsizings create sympathy, self-indulgence does not.
I’m lucky – my husband still owns the company and has a job, so I still have sufficient funds to go to un-conferences and listen to people tell me to do what I’ve already done. But suppose I was a sole breadwinner with kids to support and a mortgage to meet? That strategy would have placed a lot of other people in jeopardy. Is Laurie Ruettiman’s philosophy is the better one? She says, ” You get a paycheck. Be happy.”
By sharing that with you, I want to emphasize a point that was touched on at HRevolution but not sufficiently embraced: the enlightened HR group that we are a part of is a very tiny minority of the entire HR population. The solutions and suggestions we propose inside of our “HR echo chamber” will not be embraced by them and will often be actively resisted. We need to help others examine themselves and their roles to see how they can evolve and revolutionize, even if circumstances and paychecks keep them in their positions. A large majority of HR pros don’t even know that people and technology exist to help them make this journey. In other words, they don’t read our blogs. Until a very short time ago, I was one of those people.
When Alicia Arenas asked us in a video to leave HRevolution with a commitment to spread the message, she mentioned college students and local SHRM chapters as examples of avenues to spread our enlightenment. Let’s collectively think of more, and start an outreach program, because we will not succeed without converting others. With that in mind, I am picking up the flag of HRevolution and making this commitment:
I will use social media, personal connections, and any other soapbox that is available to me to encourage, aid, and advise HR Pros and other business professionals to embark on a course of personal development that will expand their knowledge and engage and enlighten others.
By doing this, I hope to move past the idea that HR people should just be happy to get a paycheck. The people I will try to reach may not be able to leave their companies, but they may be able to avoid doing everything “The Company Way.” Viva la revolution!