Last week, one of my favorite HR bloggers, called on HR to get in Formation. Reflecting on Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance, Sarah Williams wrote a nuanced article not only discussing Beyonce but also the implications of her Formation message in our organizations. This is one of my favorite parts of the article:
“… As leaders, it is time to get in Formation. It is time to use our influence to send clear messages about the things that are important. It is time to actively create opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise get them without our help. I’m not talking about throwing all caution to the wind to promote purely personal agendas …I’m talking about holding our organizations accountable for and moving them toward walking the talk on the issues they say they care about.”
I thought about those words as I responded to questions about Black History Month, family friendly workplaces and gay pride at work. People know I work in HR and regardless of company size I get some questions on these topics. In the diversity space, people are quick to see when the company’s message doesn’t fit the representation (i.e., a company is promoting a diversity initiative but the senior leadership doesn’t contain a single woman or minority).
Sarah is right when she says that HR must use our influence throughout all processes under our umbrella. Whether hiring, firing or promoting, HR tackles the challenge of sensitive employee relations issues that deal with potential discrimination, harassment, unfair treatment and even (I hope not often) workplace violence.
These issues are complex and can involve politics, religion, gender & race. Topics most of us are taught to stay away from at work and even avoid discussing in our private lives. But HR is out there addressing these issues on a daily basis directly or indirectly. We may not always realize it but these hot topics are part of what we sign up for in HR.
Reflecting on it all, I realized that HR is not a place for people without courage. It is not a place for people without opinions. It is not a place for those who are scared to upset the company apple cart. The key for HR professionals is to handle those situations with respect, dignity and fairness.