Why I Am Glad to Be in Human Resources…and It’s Not What You Think

Until I stumbled into Human Resources by accident, I, like most people, thought that this was a mundane, administration- and process-oriented field of work. But oh boy, how wrong I was.

In the Knowledge Economy and age of fast, global competition, Human Resources has evolved into a highly strategic and advisory role that enables businesses to tap into and maximize the potential of their most critical resource: their talents. Tools and technology can only go as far and produce products as unique as the human brains driving them.  Mega corporations tout innovation as the key to succeeding and differentiating themselves–and high levels of creativity and innovation can only be achieved when morale is high.

The days where Human Resources was merely the disciplinary body, payroll and leave processing clerks, resume sifter, and team-building organizers are long gone. Welcome to the world of endless gray areas, ever evolving business challenges requiring a lot more than just business and technical knowledge to solve; baffling behavioural issues; performance management and the challenge of ensuring that success indicators used are relevant to the company’s business; people, morale, leadership and culture development. This is, in other words, and at a time where personal and professional aspects of our lives are so closely intertwined, a world of boundless opportunities to manage change and make a difference in people’s lives.

A successful HR professional today is one with a keen business acumen, working knowledge of all core processes, and insights into why people do what they do and how all that pans out in the culture of the organization to affect the bottom line. He or she needs to have the capability to influence, initiate, drive, and affect change when (or even before) change is necessary.

It is often said that the greatest problems and assets are one: people — and for today’s Human Resources professional, success is when the work he or she does, brings out the best in the organization and its people. Because the profession has evolved from being mere executors into precious enablers and catalysts for success.

Motivation: Lasting Impact, Simple Means

Today two colleagues and I conducted a motivational program for a group of factory employees – and I use the term “motivational” rather than motivation because I am far from an expert on this subject. Therefore, it is more accurate to say that we organized something to motivate the workers to be more engaged and enthusiastic about their work, rather than to teach them about motivation.

Aside from the fact that none of us are motivation experts, I also believe that motivation can never really be taught. Like passion, genuine lasting motivation is something that has to come from within.

So how did we go about designing a program that would be fun, and most importantly, drive home a strong message that leads to lasting change? We wanted to achieve a profound impact through elegant and uncomplicated means. How?

So we put our heads together and in the end came up with a program content based on these premises:

1. That the answers (as to how to solve problems, get along with others, and be happier at work) are already in the participants themselves

2. That any motivational program must not appear to be preachy, shoving do’ s and dont’s down the throats of perfectly capable adults

So, for messages to be effective in spurring real change, they must be discovered by the participants themselves. Nothing new, actually – considering this is actually what the best counsellors, coaches/mentors and therapists do: leading their charges to discover answers for themselves, rather than telling them what to do.

So we did just that. First, we identified the priorities of this group of workers. And then, prior to the program day, we had them answer a questionnaire that sought their opinion on how things can be improved.

Then we analyzed their responses and picked the most common and also the most pertinent ones to compile into a summary. This morning, we kicked off the program by running through its objectives, and pointed out how these objectives were pretty much aligned with the feedback they had given us through the questionnaire. We believe in affirmation!

Next, we showed the summary of their responses and thanked them for their input, and informed them of what we were going to do about it. There were giggles and laughter as familiar statements flashed on the screen, and I noticed a good number of them nodding intently as I spoke.

In line with the premise that answers are often found within oneself, the next thing we did was to run a session on personalities – highlighting how we tend to approach life and relationships differently based on how we are wired. Finally we had them get into groups to brainstorm on what the different personality types could do to bridge differences and contribute to workplace harmony. They then took turns to present their results with the whole group, and in the end, out of the entire list of ‘things we can do’, we asked them to pick three things they could do over the next month or so, and then see if there is better teamwork and overall happiness by then.

What are these three things?
1. They agreed they would start saying ‘thank you’ whenever they receive feedback for improvement
2. They agreed they would smile at and greet their co workers and superiors
3. They agreed they would start to extend help to colleagues even if the task is not in their job description

And we would remind them of these three things, and follow up with them over the next few weeks to get their feedback on how things have improved with these simple behaviour modification.

Of course there were other fun things we did in today’s program, but I would not elaborate other than saying that we did play a couple of games, ate some good food (loved the hot and spicy tempe and anchovies!), had photos taken, and had a blasting karaoke session.

Granted, motivation is a lifestyle and not just a one-day program, so we will be following up with our participants and walking alongside them to discover more answers. And they will definitely not be the only ones learning and growing 🙂