Twenty-five. One-fourth of a measure. A quarter century. The amount of time I have been practicing Human Resources. And I use the word, “practicing” because that is what I am still doing each day.
Many of you may remember those days of Personnel Management when our field was considered to be administrative in its scope, viewing workers as a means to an end. Then came the now-famous Fast Company article in 2005, “Why We Hate HR.” What a wake-up call for all of us! We realized that vast opportunity existed for thinking differently about the impact we can have on the lives of the people on our teams. We have always heard the phrase, “If you want a different result, do something different.” What I have learned is that if we truly want a different result, we have to THINK something different. And for me, that “thinking differently” shows up in the form of “thinking like an owner.”
Ownership in this context is that awareness of responsibility, that mindset that “this” is mine. I am accountable for it, whatever “it” is, not only to others, but to myself. So thinking like an owner sets the stage for how I interact with people, with data, and with planning, and it is the framework for how I “show up.” Thinking like an owner drives everything from how I engage with learning, how I forgive myself and others for mistakes, and how I co-create the conditions for teammate engagement. An ownership culture that creates the conditions for Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management… these have been the Emotional Intelligence keys to creating an environment in which the whole person is welcomed into the workplace each morning.
Practicing empathy, compassion, and a holistic approach to teammate well-being has had significantly more positive impact on our shared success as an organization. From this perspective, we were able to think creatively around benefits and performance management, moving the traditional PTO to a Flexible Time Off approach, providing each teammate with whatever time off they need, no questions asked. And we evolved the old “performance appraisals” to what we call GPS, or “Grow, Prosper, Serve,” in which the teammate sets their own goals and their team leader ensures they have the resources to meet them. There are no scores involved; instead we coach one another and work together to ensure goals are met or changed if need be. The level of “ownership engagement” increased significantly when each teammate realized they were trusted, not managed. The focus on the human-centered teammate experience has become the foundation of the culture we continue to “practice” each day with each interaction.
As I write this, I realize it sounds lofty. We thought so, too… at first. Then we simply made the decision to make it happen. Ownership is not easy, it is not without its challenges and heartaches. But I have learned that we are doing something far bigger than “finding skilled workers.” We are helping create the culture that skilled workers are seeking and the culture in which those skilled workers will thrive. I believe, and it has been my experience, that “if you build it, they will come.” It is the natural law of cause and effect.
By Maurie McGarvey, Paducah Bank
four rivers shrm: A blog featuring content from human resource professionals across Western Kentucky & Southern Illinois