While speaking about HR, human resources recently, someone said to me, “RH est pour rendre heureuse (RH) aux salaries”. Some linguistic explanation required. Human resources is “ressources humains” in French, thus the acronym RH, the same for “rendre heureuse” which is render or make happy. So is HR the new Happiness maker in the company?
It’s been circulating recently, the idea that HR should rather be Chief Happiness Officer and happiness in employees will make them better at work and thus make the company better and more profitable. But can HR really be the holder of happiness of people at work? And is happiness really the key to a high performing company?
The amount of research in this area is rather extensive on both sides. Happiness at work creates a joyful culture and people are more helpful and less cases of burnt out. It made sense. So can a bunch of very happy employees also turn a 10-man company to 20 to 1000? I doubt it. Unhappiness at work can create very toxic environment, create residue stress that seeps into personal life and create more unhappiness where people burn out and leave. Will a 1000 plus employee company become inefficient and reduce to 20 people? I doubt it too.
The pursuit of happiness is natural in human kind. That’s just a natural law. But happiness is so many things to so many people. More importantly, work is only part of our lives and can only contribute to part of our happiness.
When is it the responsibility of the company, mangers or human resources department to make us happy? Isn’t that our responsibility to create a life we want with the brand of happiness we define? Why would I cede this power to make me happy to someone or an institution and why would I hold someone accountable if I’m not happy?
No, I think the pursuit of happiness is my business. Work is a path and HR can clear the path!
What do I mean?
There are several well-written articles from the perspective of the organisation. I’ll take this up from the perspective of what I think HR can do.
Clear the recruitment path
Today’s recruitment in many protective labour markets is very risk averse. This means recruitment is based on all the criteria of the past (good education, experience in the same job, doing exactly the same thing elsewhere). It’s not future or potential looking. When HR succumbs to the pressure of “no hiring mistake”, the perversion is to hire like for like for current need and render the future needs of the company to luck. The person hire for the existing job may or may not be able to grow for the next job in the company. Without potential leaders, succession planning is hampered and the flow of talent will be choked.
If I’m recruited on my potential and capabilities, I’ll feel appreciated and motivated to prove my worth.
Clear the development path
Training and development prevalent today reminds of tuition, supplementary to help employees do their work today better. The educational path of an employee should be forward looking and requires a development and a career path. When HR do not help to facilitate identification of leaders and development for management teams, it’s allowing upward movement of unqualified managers who might be star players in their current job and a generation of unqualified managers and leaders. It also loses the opportunity to unlock potential in people and help employees strive to excellence.
If I knew that someone is working with me on my career development path, putting things out for me to reach, I’ll feel interested and motivated to learn to get there.
Clear the mobility path
The mistake most people in mid-career make is to think that only promoting to a higher position is a sign of success. There are multiple paths to reach capacity and some includes horizontal moves and working in different environments. But it disrupts teams and managers often try to keep their good people than letting them go. Mobility is also difficult in cultural adjustments and provides a new set up challenges in living skills. HR can help to promote mobility within the global working environment or across teams rather than looking at legal implications, releasing liabilities and tenures and thwart movement in the process.
If I had HR support in protecting my tenure while I move across countries and teams, I would feel helped and focus on the move and new job.
Clear the political path
Every workplace has politics, as each employee is different in character, communication style and ways of working. When there is an absence of a strong culture that focuses people on working together and achieving common goal, these politics come into play for personal protection, bargaining for gains and often an expression of frustrations. With HR taking a backseat in culture, they become the undertaker when things have really gone wrong often resulting in lawsuits, firings, employee relations and unions discussions. HR can take a more active stand to assess how people are working together and steering in team building activities, working through differences and strengthening team communication and common understanding.
If I feel that I can ask HR for help in conflicts and that we are all playing for the same team, I’d feel understood and more tolerant of differences.
Conclusion – Happy or not happy?
I struggled with this. Perhaps at then end of all these is indeed happiness. If I feel motivated, loyal, listened to, appreciated, respected and developed, this would mean I’m happy. But this can’t be all of what happiness means and that’s just too easy to say HR, be Happiness Officers.
Happy is a feeling. I can be happy or sad because of so many things. But I want to wake up and want to go to work because there is a challenge out there I can solve, I can do something, be useful. I want to earn my keep that I deserve.
I think I’ve said. It’s the dignity of work. It has nothing to do with happiness. And HR can help me keep my dignity, not my happiness.
(Will update links to articles on this topic.)