I mentioned in a previous post that I had fallen in with a network of HR professionals over on Twitter. One of the most exciting conversations in that particular corner of the social media universe is based out of New Zealand, in the form of #nzead, hosted by Amanda Sterling & Natasha Pieterse. #nzlead is thoughtfully curated and although it was set up to bring together HR professionals from around New Zealand to discuss leadership, management and HR practices it now has a global following.
Each week a number of challenging questions are asked of participants and these provoke some really thoughtful responses and lively debate. Fortunately, this tends not to be of the navel-gazing variety that seems to be the default setting for all sorts of workplace business functions at the moment. True, words like “relevance” pop up from time to time, and a desire to creep close to the fabled “top table” is occasionally evident, but on the whole it is a more enlightened dialogue with passionate and committed participants, respectful of each other’s opinions.
One of those participants, who wears his passion and commitment like a badge of honour, is Perry Timms. You can read more about him here. I mention him by name because he is taking over this week’s #nzlead chat on the topic of BraveHR. In advance, Perry has posed a number of questions around this subject and on reading his guest post I couldn’t resist a post of my own in response as this notion of bravery at work is one that need not be limited to HR.
Firstly, I should say that when I initially thought of the word brave it was not immediately work-like scenarios that sprang to mind. Brave is a slightly built scout leader calmly reasoning with a fanatical, bloodied and armed assailant. Brave is overcoming life threatening and life changing injuries to compete at your home Olympics. Brave is clearing mines in Angola with inadequate equipment so children can walk safely to and from school.
And yet…brave is standing up in front of colleagues to acknowledge your struggles with mental health problems. Brave is taking a stand against unethical or dangerous working practices knowing it might put your employment at risk. Brave is no longer putting up with casually sexist attitudes in your office. Brave is saying no when it needs to be said and not being afraid to tell people why, because the truth matters more to you than your own popularity.
So, here are Perry’s questions and my answers
Q1 – Why does HR need to be brave – are IT, Finance and Marketing brave?
A degree of bravery is needed wherever you work and in whatever function or industry if we aren’t just blindly accepting of the status quo or settling for second best. If you concern yourself with how to get the best from your employees whilst giving them the best possible experience at work you’re going to come up against obstacles. Entrenched dogmatic cultural obstacles. Some of these are going to take courage to overcome.
Q2 – Taken we need more BraveHR – how and where do we focus that effort?
By example. Especially in challenging circumstances, people have a tendency to adopt a heads down mentality that has the potential to be complicit in fostering repressive or bullying workplace cultures. You’re going to have to visibly take a stand and challenge the business to change. Process and policy count for nought if you sit silently by while someone harrasses or belittles a colleague. Sick of meetings where the same people speak with the same outcomes and the same sense of inertia? You’re going to have to get brave and call people out on it.
Q3 – If people in HR aren’t brave enough what do we do about that?
Without singling people out for opprobrium, we need to be reminding everyone of the consequences of timidity and inaction. Happy to work for a business that is a polluter in the developing world? Thought not, and your colleagues most likely aren’t either. Stick around and see redundancies mount as the business diverts funds to paying compensation claims or become a champion for change.
Q4 – What will be the signs that BraveHR has made a difference?
People want to know that their voice is not only heard but acted upon where it makes good sense to do so. This is a question that goes to the heart of the problem a lot of people have with the word “engagement”. For me it’s not an activity, its the lifeblood of an organisation. When courageous people have spoken up and acted to change the business for the better we will all feel it instintively in a changed culture based on shared values and authentic and honest dialogue, being authentically us at work.