I think the impact Covid has had on the workforce in the past six months has made all of us face the truth we’ve seemed to commonly avoid in HR: people are a company’s most important asset. They are the most significant capital any business has. And any organization’s primary objective should be to build a team that can help the company thrive. And in the case of Covid aftermath, not only thrive but survive.
HR’s goal since the beginning of its fundamental existence was to hire the right people in the right companies. To gather the right talent, to form the best teams, to make the biggest dent in the universe with their unified teamwork and success.
Here’s what changed
So, what happened? Life happened. Greed happened. Politics happened. Anything but honoring that foundational goal of HR became the norm. We began to compromise talent to appease the public eye, the greedy stakeholder, and the narcissistic leader. We compromised the heart of our companies for power and market dominance. We compromised our people and the talents and sacrifices they made to do good work. We minimized the value we brought to their lives. We even diluted making diversity initiatives (for the right reasons) a fundamental pillar of every team. We fell short of what HR was meant to accomplish.
Tech: the new foundation?
Then we started creating and adopting technologies that made those fundamental shortcomings in our companies worse. We never went back to the basics and redefined our strategy of putting people first. We never acknowledged what needed to change. We believed technology could be the new strategy. That tech was going to guide our newfound diversity initiatives and support upskilling in our organizations. That tech would mitigate our unconscious biases and make certain that we wouldn’t have any lawsuits on our hands or critiques from the public about what we stood for. Tech was the new answer. The new foundation. The new end all be all.
Technology was the band-aid. The band-aid that we slapped over a bleeding wound we never let heal, in hopes that it might get better someday. We missed an opportunity to grow. To mend what had become so fundamentally broken. That’s really what technology was meant to help us do at its core. To be a tool that would help us redefine, track, and reach our goals faster, to gain insight into data we hadn’t measured consistently, and to make complex work more simple and efficient. It was never meant to be the strategy. Just the catalyst for its growth.
So, what’s left?
When Covid entered our worlds and the market crashed, what were our companies left with? Power? Greed? The unnecessary politics we battle daily in our organizations? Applicants from fancy schools? Ping pong tables? Happy hours? Eclectic buildings? Press mentions? Literally none of the above. We were left with our people. That’s it. We didn’t have an immediate answer of how to respond because we’ve never faced a crash like this in our lifetimes. There was no crutch. Technology couldn’t save us. Diversity committees weren’t the solution. Greedy, corporate power instantly carried no weight or meaning. We were suddenly, in what felt like a snap of a finger, back to the roots of what HR was built on. Our people. And all of a sudden, they were all that mattered. Supporting them, caring for them, acknowledging them, valuing them, hearing them, and providing for them. The new strategies we will or have already incorporated in regards to our companies over these last few months have DEMANDED us to put our people at the top of the list. Their livelihood depends on it, their mental health depends on it, and the state of our companies depends on it. All the hang-ups and minor technicalities that have distracted our foundational strategies and diluted our values in our businesses for so long, have suddenly been turned on their heads. Because at the end of the day, they don’t matter. They’re not saving us or defining us. Our people are.
As we’ve all witnessed, the importance of those distractions have simply lost their worth overnight. But our people haven’t. They’ve been the constant in the face of the unknown. The foundation guiding new initiatives and strategies. The roots branching off to invest in new and creative ventures in hopes of bringing life back to the brokenness. THAT’S WHAT MATTERS. Those are the kind of people we want to hire. The kind we fight to get. The kind we need on our team to be successful in the next world of work.
Tom Peters, acclaimed business author and speaker, recently published a few thoughts worth repeating.
- “I wonder if there is even one business school on earth that puts people ahead of finance?”
- “Soft skills will be 10x more important in a virtual/work-at-home world. Team dynamics, individual growth, and team creativity will dominate effectiveness.”
Julie Taylor, CHRO at Broadridge Financial Solutions, a New York-based financial firm with about 10,000 employees said, “The crisis of Covid, quickly followed by the crisis around the social justice movement and responding appropriately to that has really been a crucible to the HR function where just talk or unimportant fluff — that’s all burned away. And that’s focused our minds on what’s important.”
And one final thought from Ben Eubanks, one of my favorite HCM analysts in the industry, “If the last few months have shown us anything, it’s that HR is a human-focused profession. But it’s incredibly challenging to scale the human touch without tools and technology.”
At the end of the day, Leoforce is a technology company. But our technology is worthless without people. Without a strategy guiding our efforts. Without a heart that beats for humans to be in jobs that make them happy and to support the growth of successful companies that will make a dent in the universe someday. We just want to be part of the process. Not the foundation of it. That’s your job. And it’s the one job HR has failed at for far too long. Covid has collectively brought us insurmountable challenges both in our personal and professional lives, but it’s also demanded agility and growth from us. And it’s provided an uncomfortable but pivotal opportunity to get back to the foundation that we’ve all so easily abandoned. It’s time for us to wake up, respond, and start working for our people again.