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As a former HR manager, and latterly in my employment as HR director, I know only too well the pressures and the difficult assignments that befall the corporate HR department.
The key function of good HR is to provide a service to the organisation and its staff. The workforce, from the top to the bottom, need to be treated as ‘the customer’, supporting and delivering to that customer as required. I have always believed in HR operating an ‘open door’ policy to anyone within the organisation. An accessible and visible HR department creates trust and confidence, and cohesion. Not always easy at the best of times, and in this current economic climate beleaguered HR personnel are beginning to suffer.
Cut backs and waves of redundancies are currently on businesses’ agendas, as they fight to survive the credit crunch. Head office functions and responsibilities such as marketing, are being removed and re-assigned to be delivered by line management, and effecting the change that these situations bring not only for those leaving, but also for those remaining – often requires HR input. And frequently when all that is done, it’s the turn of HR being the last to go. If your boss asks you for details of the redundancy process, be wary.
At my last employment the company was working towards floating on the stock market, and the share options awarded to me at the time of my directorship would turn in to ordinary shares, which I could cash in. It was at this stage that I made the decision to make some life changes as this windfall would support and help me move forward to a new chapter in my life. Part of the company’s preparation to float was to tidy up the management structure, which fell upon my department. Even though I was preparing my own exit some months ahead, it came as a huge shock that I was included in that tidy up process – they didn’t require an HR director going forward. Thankfully, the timing of my redundancy hit three years ago when the economy was buoyant, and receiving a redundancy package as well as the payout from the shares did ease the blow. I was lucky. But at the time, being forced out of a job you’ve given many years to is never easy to face, no matter what the circumstances.
So, who looks after the wellbeing of HR during these difficult times?
In my coaching business I have come across many HR people who are really struggling to cope under these current pressures. Their sense of self preservation buckles as they try to deal with making their colleagues redundant – colleagues whom they’ve known over a number of years and who perform well with an excellent record of conduct.
Before we can attempt to minimise the stress and pressures we first need to recognise that we are suffering from it. The next step is to realise what the triggers are. Stress comes in two directions; internally – the stress we create…pressure we put on ourselves, and; externally – work, boss, family etc.
Here are some tips on how to deal with stress: