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HR was never an HR thing...

Sometimes I’m amazed about how the simplest practices that many service companies have been doing since the ancient days, come from the past to teach us lessons for our future.

I still remember my first job in London when I was still studying in University. I needed the money to pay for my fees and the easiest thing at that time was to look in hotels.

I landed a job at a 4 star hotel’s switchboard, and during my induction day, I was introduced to all the back office departments and given a “rotation schedule”. The Rotation Schedule included a minimum of 7 days in each department where I became familiar with what every other department was doing and how their jobs where linked to other departments and to my job in particular.

I didn’t give it too much of a thought at that time, until one night at 2am the fire alarm went off and from the staff residence I had to rush down to the switchboard as part of the emergency response team (remember, no mobile phones at that time…):

  • The daily calls made in the morning to the reception desk to get info about occupancy, allowed me to give the firefighters info even before they arrived about our number of guests

  • The regular radio checks conducted by the Switchboard every day, allowed us to spot the emergency radios that were not working and prevented the conference & banqueting staff from being harmed during the fire started just next door.

  • We knew that at this time of the night the cleaning personnel would be working in the lobby area and that there where 3 room service personnel on duty each night.

  • We had the emergency system report printed out for the security team to provide to the firefighters.

Our joint actions saved the life of more than 400 people in a fire that completely burned the ground and first floor of the Hotel, because each one of us, knew the importance of the other department’s job and how our responsibility played a big role in each other’s success.

During a webinar about HR’s Biggest Opportunities in Global Leadership Forecasts with Ceree Eberly (Former Chief People Officer The Coca-Cola Company) and Rebecca Ray, Executive VP Human Capital, The Conference Board), they mentioned the need for a “T Leader”.

“T Model Leadership” as defined by Andy Kelly (Director of Leadership factory) is the leader’s ability to be comfortable sitting on the horizontal part of the T, with a broad view of the organization. The leader at the top of the T recognises that the focus has to be on the longer term and on the changes the business has to make to deliver the strategy.

The HR function was developed from the vision that business leaders, production managers, industrial committees, finance managers and entrepreneurs had, about how the correct management and coordination of personnel could help their business be successful.

However, during these years, we got too comfortable in our vertical T “HR Expertise”, and the acquisition of "technical skills", instead of doing what we were always meant to do:

  1. Get out of our chair and sit on the horizontal part of the T: We are the sentinels of the organisational internal and external environment and the thermometer of the cultural climate. We need to get in and out, within our functions, across functions and beyond functions to reach out to "people".

  2. Allow other departments to do and reinvent HR: Not only partner to achieve results, partner to keep HR at the core of every department so they understand that people are every department's matter.

  3. Prioritise Business Strategy: Each person has their own particular duty but our common goal is the same. Facilitate and Drive other departments in prioritising the delivery of the Business Strategy.

  4. Never stand still: Be aware that if the Business Strategy changes without HR noticing, we are already arriving late... When we are not contributing to the Business Strategy Design, we lead the change that will remind and validate the value of HR Strategies to Business Success.

  5. Change also starts with HR: We have to drive changes that will create an environment able to anticipate business strategies and to lead market changes too.

  6. Translate your change: In a global market, we no longer compete “in-house”. If you don’t translate your strategy by function, country, language and by industry, you'll miss reach, engagement and opportunities.

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