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By David Harder on May, 10, 2017

How HR Professionals Lose Their Lives Through Competency

It was 1990 and one of the nation’s largest banks was starting to fall apart. A rather visionary human resources executive came to one of our first programs to evaluate whether we could help their employees do more than simply transition into another job. Soon after her attendance, hundreds of professionals began showing up. Many used the program as a turning point in their careers. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

During the program, the human resource executive began recounting her previous year. It began with their headquarters tower catching fire in downtown Los Angeles. She was put in charge of dealing with injured and dead workers. Over 3,000 employees had to be immediately relocated. Just after this experience, she had to layoff over 2,000 workers. Many of them had been there for years. The event was immediately followed by another large wave of layoffs. During the Christmas holidays, everyone received a lottery number and a gift was matched to each lucky recipient. She received a cheese wheel with a hatchet. Someone at the dining table said, “Isn’t that appropriate.”

By now, she was having trouble continuing when I asked, “Did anyone once ask how you were doing?”

The tears began flowing freely and she whispered, “Of course not, you were supposed to be happy to have a job.”

In the years afterward, I witnessed a phenomenon with many human resource executives as well as other “below-the-line” professionals. The value of these positions is based on how many problems you can solve in a day. As you progress, you are given more problems to solve. Since the position is treated as “overhead” rather than “profit generation” you rarely receive a new support system that matches the workload. As the role grows, employers rarely compensate so a successful professional can reach a position where they are working so hard they literally lose their life to competency. The nature of the work can turn even the most balanced individual into a co-dependent personality.

As the tumult of human resource functions continues to change and the strategic chief talent officer emerges, perhaps it is the time to re-frame the entire business of people as a profit making enterprise. In the meantime:

  • Regularly define all of the work that is done under the framework of your title. Where are you making the biggest contribution? What kind of work would be best managed by administrative support? How can you partner with other departments to make your job easier for you? How much profit can you help generate as a result?
  • If you have the opportunity to serve in an area that generates revenue, take it! The experience will change your mindset and as well as how you are perceived.
  • Start acting like a profit generation department. For example, we recently trained a sizable human resources department to engage in sophisticated social networking. The move improved the career of every team member, cut costs with talent acquisition and opened the doors to new relationships and sources of business intelligence throughout their community.
  • When having discussions with other executives always discuss your role in language that demonstrates and links your work to profit-making and value creation.

If you are in the pattern and want to break out of it, invest in a coach and perhaps find a few mentors. Find ones that are masters in building effective support throughout an organization, gifted in developing help systems and strategic in building external communities that help them fulfill their mission, vision & purpose.

They might be right in front of you.

Regardless, change your behavior.

Change your mind.

Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.

P: (310) 277-4850 / E:

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