Dear HR (Sucky Economy Version)…

Kathy Rapp Career Paths, Engagement and Satisfaction, Kathy Rapp

One of my favorite parts of Business Week is the last page.  For those of you who only read online, the actual last page of the magazine is always a column called “The Welch Way” by Jack and Suzy Welch.  Granted, they could come up with a catchier title, but generally, the advice is worth reading and on point.

Recently, they published their annual “Dear Graduate” article, a commencement address of sorts.  While not as entertaining as Ellen’s speech to Tulane, I thought the advice was worth repeating to the HR pros out there regardless of new grad or “seasoned” executive status.  The premise of the piece is advice on how to succeed in a sucky economy, so I think you’ll agree it is relevant to all.

A handshake, presentation with diploma. Graduation. Education background.

Do read the full article, and here are the four “codicils” highlighted with my commentary to HR:

#1 – “Get off your computer.” HR folks tend to like to hide behind technology.  Whether it was the old-timey voicemail message left after hours or the policy riddled email – we’ve all done it.  It is easier to tell employees they will now have to pay to park or to remind the Sales Director that his reviews are a year overdue via technology, right!?!  Jack and Suzy are not saying they don’t love technology and use it appropriately, but they are saying that to get ahead you have to get in front of people.  Building relationships only leads to good things – whether it is a promotion, recognition, increased credibility or being “in the know”, so get out from behind your desk…NOW.

#2 – “You’ve got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues.”  Here, our gurus are referring to the desire of new grads to have work-life balance and they suggest that you’ve got to EARN your stripes before asking for balance of any sort.  I love the thought that “flexibility is a reward, not an entitlement”.  FOT regulars know this is some of my favorite HR jargon.  Balance is possibly achievable in HR if you work in a status-quo job in a company where everyone is 9 to 5, and really, how fun is that??!

#3 – “Love everyone.”  OK, so seems a bit odd coming from Jack but the follow-on comments deal with office politics and how people attempt to align themselves with one group or the other in order to get ahead.  HR folks fall into this trap as well, in addition to thinking we know more than anyone else when it comes to people, culture and organizational structure.  Truly listening to your co-workers, regardless of where they sit on an org chart, and believing there is something of value you can gain from those interactions is critical for HR.

#4 – “Please stop apologizing if you have a business degree.”  Yes, capitalism has taken a credibility hit but Jack and Suzy emphasize that business is still a noble profession.  HR is part of that profession that helps create “jobs, opportunity and hope” and we all need to remember that – especially when 50% or more of HR jobs today deal with RIFs, expense control and doing more with less.  Stop apologizing and/or agonizing if you are in HR right now.  This too shall pass.

Whether you are a new grad or HR type struggling in today’s environment, Jack & Suzy have sound advice. My two cents to the HR pros…well, is my advice.  What would you add?