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Financial turmoil - implications for HR

Conversations, both at work and outside, seem to centre on the current financial turmoil and its implications for all of us. Personally, I avoid listening to the news as far as possible, because so much of it is bad and it creates such a negative influence on our feelings and our state of mind.

For those in HR, the current financial turmoil can create opportunities as well as the challenges that most people seem to focus on. An article in the 7 October issue of Personnel Today quotes a spokesperson for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, administrators for Lehman Brothers, saying that the Lehmans HR team as ‘pretty instrumental’ in dealing with the job cuts and having ‘the knowledge of how best to communicate to Lehman employees. The HR team is pretty indispensable at the moment’.

Even the CIPD is negative about the impact of the credit crunch, saying there ‘could be 2.25 million people unemployed by the end of next year’ – an increase of half a million on the July 2008 figures. John Philpott, Chief Economist of the CIPD says that ‘HR is as likely to be affected as any other profession when the axe starts to swing’. Given that HR seems to have been under pressure to modernise, become more efficient and streamline for some years, this is something that HR is used to!

One thing that I think is often overlooked is the ‘double whammy’ for HR when organisational downsizing occurs. Effective delivery of that process for the organisation is critical, but when HR itself is also undergoing change, it becomes harder to deliver effective results. Just as individuals can often cope with stress if it is affecting either their personal life or their work life, when it affects both the pressure can become too much causing the individual to crack under the strain.

I have recently been coaching a well-motivated HR Manager who is finding the negative focus of his work in HR, coupled with the uncertainty around his own job situation almost too much to bear. Added to this, the lack of recognition of the important contribution he is making and putting himself last is sapping his motivation. There has to be balance. If you keep adding water to a glass of orange juice, not only will it overflow but the juice will get more and more diluted, so that the flavour of the orange will eventually disappear. For this HR Manager, the more time he spends focussing on others at the expense of his own needs, the less effective he is.

What is the answer? My suggestions include ensuring that colleagues in HR:

  • identify individual and team successes
  • take time to coach one another to perform their best and
  • ensure that colleagues have the support and recognition they need as individuals.

Providing encouragement to work reasonable hours and take time out are also important.

If HR is not in a good place, it won’t provide the appropriate support to managers that create the right impression for when the turnaround happens – which it inevitably will.



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