HR really isn’t okay right now. When the COVID pandemic struck, all hell broke loose. We watched as you had to make tough decisions about layoffs, salary cuts, and overnight pivots. Sometimes, we lost our jobs for the sake of the company’s survival. Regardless, we now stare a bleak future in the face. There will be a huge mental health fallout from COVID. We are at risk of a massive recession or even depression. Governments around the world are unsure about how they will keep their citizens safe. And we have an entirely new paradigm of remote pandemic work.
As the pandemic continues, we’ve stayed quiet for about as long as we can. There’s something we need to talk with you about. Putting it bluntly: we not only want to help, but we are also capable of helping. People issues, you say? That’s our entire education and professional experience. You say talent is the most critical part of the business, and we agree with you wholeheartedly.
We aren’t standing here asking you to defend yourself or to “prove it” when you say you value your people. We know you do. But we need a few things from you so we can do our job and support you.
Show us who you really are
I’ll cut to the chase: everyone knows you’re lying when you appear cool, collected, and confident in all-hands Zoom meetings. Even if things are going well for the company, there is too much going on to not be concerned, if only a little bit. Instead of bravado, please be more honest with your concerns. Many CEOs are afraid to speak for fear of saying the wrong thing, but the reality is we cannot help you if we don’t know what you’re facing. Or if we can, it will be mediocre at best.
Now is not the time to hide. Shine a light on your concerns and thoughts — at least privately if you can’t share it with everyone in the organization — so we can work to help you solve what we can and pivot around what we can’t.
Follow up on your words
Every major societal issue results in bold words from CEOs: Pride. Black Lives Matter. The COVID pandemic. Now we implore you to follow up on those words. Employees want training, conversations, education, and to see tangible next steps taken in the business. Putting our HR hat on for a second, we aren’t saying you have to promise the moon. Only promise what you can deliver on — and then actually deliver on it. That’s all we’re asking.
PS — worried about that speech you want to give or promise you want to make? We’ll happily be your confidential ear and gut-check to see if the promise is too big to deliver on (we’ll offer tangible suggestions if that’s the case).
Throw out the dogma and let’s find what works
Going remote due to COVID was a public health necessity. But suddenly announcing that offices are closed forever without asking anyone’s input first is not. When you’re thinking about huge decisions that will affect everyone, let’s cut the dogma. “Remote” lost its marketing lustre a month after COVID hit, so there’s no need to make a big change for the sake of PR — it isn’t coming. For that matter, so did almost any change that’s solely geared to “fighting the pandemic.”
What we really need from you is to consult your employees — all of them. Ask for their opinions, thoughts, responses, and feelings. This isn’t about appeasement. You aren’t required to find a solution that makes everyone happy or incorporates every single person’s opinion. This is an exercise in veracity. You are the leader because your team trusts you to make decisions. However, you’re still only one person — let your team provide you with insights, ideas, and suggestions that help you make a decision with the best available data.
Talk with us about immediate needs for long-term outlooks
We mean this with no offence, but your vantage point as CEO is limited. You’re focused on big picture items and, often regardless of company size, can’t get down to the nitty gritty details. That’s alright, though. A CEO can’t — and shouldn’t be forced to — analyze every matter in the company. We know you’ve got a ton on your plate and need to focus on the big picture.
What we’re asking for in this case is not for you to get involved in the nitty gritty, but to talk to us about immediate needs based on a long-term outlook so we can handle the nitty gritty. When you’re honest about what’s going on and where the company is heading, we can focus our actions on the priority outcome, not random inputs.
Acknowledge the complexity of our role
This one’s a bit personal, but frankly, we’re tired of being seen as back-office admin types. That was perhaps true in the past and may still be true in legacy industries, but it’s not the case in tech. At a scaling startup (or any innovative company, really), HR is the “42-headed monster.” We handle talent sourcing, job postings, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, D&I, performance management, professional development, leadership development, offboarding, exit surveys, engagement surveys, confidential issues, legal issues, and more. And all we want in return is to not be belittled.
When we say HR is a complex role, we mean it, and we’re simply asking for that to be acknowledged. Stop assuming one HR person is all you need. Stop tasking the receptionist, office manager or the one woman on your exec team to head up HR to save on the cost of a proper HR hire. Just ask. You’d be shocked what we’re capable of.
The final thing we want to say is that the pandemic has been damn difficult for us. We asked you to be real with us, and we hope we can be real with you in return. We’re doing a lot of emotional heavy lifting right now. Yes, it’s our job and passion, but it’s also tiring. We bring this up not to complain, but to say… hey, we’re in this together. Let’s help each other out, shall we?
If you have any questions about this letter, let me know. Otherwise, be sure to check in your HR team today. I know they would really appreciate it!
One more thing — At Bloom, we support CEO’s who aren’t ready to hire a full-time HR or Talent leader but need the support on an interim basis. We do the nitty-gritty foundational work like implementing the best tech, tools and processes that are infused with your org’s values. Read this article and still need help? Bloom’s here for you. Book a no-obligation intro call with us to ask more questions and learn how we can help you out as much, or as little, as you need. Book a call with me, Avery, here.