Last Friday night we did one of my favorite things: Dinner and a show. The tickets were a surprise Christmas gift from my better half.
As we drove into town with no specific dinner plans, we realized that one of our fave restaurants was on the way, so we went there. Now, this is a pretty nice place. You know what I mean? Cloth napkins and tablecloths, more silverware and glassware on the table than you are likely to need, beautiful views of the river, and a waitstaff with names like Remington and Heath.
We arrived at dusk, and were seated around that time when restaurants adjust their lighting for the evening. We had been able to read our menus, and enjoy a glass of wine before ordering, but sometime in between the order and our food arriving, the sun had completely set and the lighting had been adjusted. Downward. Because until the sun actually goes down, they don’t realize how much light is on, and with spotlights over each table, they create a sort of island for each table, and low light all around.
Only we didn’t even have enough light to enjoy the appearance of our food, to see that pink center on the prime rib cut. It wasn’t dark, but a few more lumens would have been nice! Nonetheless, it was a delicious meal and we enjoyed the time spent together there.
The bill came in the usual folio, and when I opened it up a bright light emerged. The bill folio had a built-in light that illuminated the check from behind! It was the most readable check I had ever seen in a restaurant. It was absolutely clear how much each item cost and what the total was.
And then it hit me. I had read several posts this week that all pointed to this exact problem. How many HR departments spend time shining bright lights on the rules, and don’t have time to bring adequate light to the things that allow employees to “enjoy the meal” of their job? If I could account for all my hours in the last 10 years, how much has been spent on rule management, harassment education, grievance handling, benefits sign-up, investigation, policy creation or enforcement, and other control and compliance related activities?
Now, compare that to the time spent truly enabling employees, providing tools and training that would allow them to bring their hearts and minds to the tasks and challenges we pay them to manage. Even if I found that mix to be fifty-fifty, it would be the wrong balance.
Immediately, I thought about Trish McFarlane’s post here and Charlie Judy’s post here. Charlie, in asking is to understand our roles as HR professionals, reminds us that part of our job is to help the company optimize employees’ performance. We don’t take sides of either management or the employees, but we take the side of success for the company. Likewise, Trish tells us the important thing is that we reward and recognize the behavior that helps move the company forward. And not spend too much on employees whose behavior crosses the line into unacceptable behavior.
At the same time, Jay Kuhns at NoExcusesHR used the words of George Bernard Shaw to remind us that it isn’t easy to do the important work of HR, that it isn’t easy to lead.
So I have a new lens to look at my work: Are the steps I am taking, the actions on the projects I am involved with, allowing employees to feel more connected and responisble for the success of the business? Am I reducing the barriers they perceive? Am I listening?
How about you? What percentage of your time is spent in policy, rules, and daily process, and what percent on creating a better opportunity for your company?
And yes, I guess I could have asked them to turn the light up a bit. But it was crowded, and the introvert in me tends to go with the flow. If its alright for the rest of the patrons, then maybe I’m asking too much.