Do You Run HR Like Hotel Le Bleu? Let’s Hope Not…

Paul Hebert Culture, Employee Relations, Engagement and Satisfaction, Paul Hebert, Personal Brand

Hurricane Irene came sashaying up to the east coast of the US last week and made quite an entrance.

A lot of damage, a lot of power outages, and a lot of stress.   New York and New Jersey took drastic measures and ordered evacuations and emergency measures that may have seemed out of whack – but hey, if I were Mayor or Governor – I know I would rather be safe than sorry (can you say Katrina?)

But I digress – my point in this post is to highlight a hotel – which – in the spirit of truth in reporting – is denying all of what I’m about to say…

The Hotel Le Bleu supposedly raised its normal $250 a night room rate to $999 on Saturday, August 27th right before Hurricane Irene made landfall.

Some would say (like Gordon Gekko, or anyone on the top floor of Morgan Stanley) –

“Hey this is America.  Capitalism rules.  Supply/Demand.  Get over it.”

Moral Capitalism

Or… you could practice something I heard on the radio – “moral capitalism.”  That sounds so much better to me.  You don’t raise your prices just because supply and demand allows you too.  You don’t raise your prices because your competitors do.  In fact, moral capitalism would seem to me to require you to lower your prices.  Require you to suffer a little bit to help those who are suffering a lot.

But like it or not – there are always companies that take advantage of tragedy and disaster to line their own pockets.  I’m not a big believer in that personally, but it does happen.  Freedom isn’t free, so we get the good and the bad.

Do You Practice “Moral HR?”

But when I heard that story about the Hotel Le Bleu (remember – they are denying it), I thought of the tragedy of our economy and the toll it’s taken on employment and employees.  Layoffs, cutbacks, reduction in 401K matches, reduction in benefits, and increases in costs to employees for services and benefits.

So here’s the question for you HR folks – and a question you should ask your own company decision makers…

If you made changes to your employee/employer contract during this tragedy – when do you bring them back?  Or… do you?

Will you operate like the Hotel Le Bleu (allegedly) did and keep those cuts in place as the economy improves?  Why wouldn’t’ you?  It’ll increase your bottom line and if everyone else kinda tows the line on this, you remain at parity.  Is there any real reason to go back to “pre-2008” benefits?

You got the employees on the ropes.  They’re happy to have a job.  They can’t really go anywhere since the economy isn’t growing (assuming the individual companies will rebound, but overall the economy doesn’t grow enough for wholesale hiring – which is what I’m hearing from my sources close to Obama).

You have a right and an obligation to the shareholders (stakeholders, whatev) to drive profits.  Bringing back those bennies would be a violation of your fiduciary responsibility right?

Or…

You could practice moral HR – give more to the employees rather than less.  Lower the cost of healthcare (hey you cut some employees already right… you got some cash sitting around, no?)  Add some benefits – heck – the employees are probably suffering individually more than the company is as a whole – right?

How could the company take on a bit more of your employee’s pain now in order to garner more of their engagement later?  Should you?

That’s my question in all of this.  Is there such a thing as Moral HR and should there be?

I don’t know.

One last question… How many of you thought of the song “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners when we started hearing stories of Hurricane Irene?  I’m thinking a ton… and for you all – special video walkout music below (subscribers may have to click through to see video.)  Now where did I store those denim overalls?