I have a penchant for grammar. I like it. Diagraming sentences is a favorite. I even taught junior high English for a couple of years right after graduating with my BA from Saint Joseph’s University. One of the more common errors I found was students using “affect” when they meant “effect.” Time and again, I would tell the 8th Graders to ask themselves the question: Is what you’re describing the result of a cause?
As we work in human resources, we will be instruments affecting others’ lives. Our creation and enforcement of policy will be received by our employees as either fair or unjust. Our encouragement of performance development will affect career paths for our teams. Each bit we do will cause an effect, whether good or bad, intended or not. So, what’s the effect you want to cause?
I had a very honest conversation with a best-selling business practices author recently. The author asked me questions about human resources and what the world of work is like today, especially because of the pandemic. Then this author surprised me. “You know, I follow a bunch of HR people on Twitter and Facebook. And it seems to me that many have an ax to grind that no one in their workplaces is asking them for. Most of HR seems to be filled with JV businesspeople who are clamoring to be heard on a field full of Varsity players.” We talked for another thirty minutes or so. Truly, I was not insulted but very interested to hear more. I wanted to know if HR was causing the right kind of effect.
Most of us might not run into someone as bold as that author, but nonetheless, we are dealing with people who may be thinking some of the same things. Are we pushing an agenda that we want to push or are we serving and leading those for whom we’ve been given charge? It’s easy to get off course and confuse the two.
Human Resources is grounded in servant leadership. Trust, diversity and selflessness are all tenets of good servant leadership. Fostering these truths requires a look out to others. Ask people how they’re doing, but also ask how they feel, how they are managing work, how they are managing life. It’s a well-rounded “not about me” approach. We don’t just ask those with whom we align; we ask all people because we want to know. In response, our leadership may involve coaching, but it should also include edification and compassion. We want to cause an effect in the lives of those we serve.
If you are joining with other human resources practitioners at SHRM22, look for ways to bring this consideration up. Look for those that will hold you accountable at home for what you learn at the conference. And foster an active spirit of service amongst your peers. Our companies need us to show servant leadership after all we’ve been through in the last two and a half years. Our people are longing for a different effect in their lives. We sit in a unique spot to offer such. Cause the effect.