Human Resources is often written about in vast layers and fantastic catch phrases !!  When I see posts about “harnessing the synergy of human capital” I start to twitch.  One of the shortcomings of what we do is that we try to make it harder than it needs to be.  I think that HR has fallen into the trap that if we sound like we’re more intricate, then people will give us more credibility.

Weaving a broader web of terms and efforts that keep the “mystique” of HR as our brand lends itself to more confusion than clarification.  When I talk to many of my peers, they share that many companies just “don’t get” them.  This has to be frustrating for those practicing HR and those who work with them.

ListenI’d like to show you a simple alternative.  Listen.

It’s an overlooked skill and attribute that we don’t practice in HR, or in organizations for the most part.  Please understand that I’m not talking about the different “types” of listening highlighted in communication models.  It’s much more simple than that.

Our employees want people who will take the time to hear what is on their mind.  We tend to think that these requests are such a hassle because we have so much more that is important and needs our attention.  I have to work myself to not fall into this approach.  I think that we consider the request to listen to people difficult because our mind tends to think the worst will occur.  If we were honest about it, we tend to be more negative about people than positive.  Our minds start to formulate all the “what if” scenarios that are sure to come up when the conversations occur, and they never come true.

Just this past week I had several requests from both Managers and front-line staff to meet with them.  This wasn’t on my schedule or in my planner.  The fact was that I had some fairly large projects in front of me that were due.  I chose to fight the urge to put these requests to the side and went to meet with each person.  I’m glad I did.  In each situation, I was able to be the sounding board that was needed at that time.  The conversations ranged from personal issues outside of work to difficultly with a manager who seems to be ignoring his staff.

Honestly, it was the best use of my time because the challenges that these employees were facing were only going to grow if someone didn’t listen to them.  I think there are three keys to making listening work:

Be Available – That sounds simple, but as I mentioned before, we put other things in front of people all the time.  Being available takes discipline and a ton of effort.  If you do this, you’ll honestly differentiate yourself from most HR practitioners !!

Don’t Seek Solutions – This goes against the grain of who we are.  We don’t feel we’re being good professionals if we don’t come up with the perfect solution to everything we face.  You may get a chance to offer a solution, but just listen first.  Seriously, listen and see where things go before formulating what could be done.

Be Consistent – You’ll do better to listen to all of your employees and not just those who are problems.  The more you listen to people the more you learn.  This will allow you to be closer to your team members, and chances are you’ll hear things early on and be able to anticipate how things will move.

Listening is something that has taken me years to learn.  It’s tough to admit that but it’s true.  I know it makes a difference.  This week start listening and see what happens !!


10 thoughts on “Listen.”

  1. Great Blog. I liked your comment “Don’t seek solutions”.I have found that often when you listen the individual either had a solution in mind and needed a sounding board or in talking through the situation that the answer became apparent as the person spoke.

  2. Not seeking solutions is so important! Especially in HR, we like to be problem solvers for people. However, employees don’t always come to us looking for a solution…they just want someone willing to actively listen. It might result in collaborative problem solving, but to your point, first thing first!

  3. Love it Steve. One of my favourite Stop Doing Dumb Things cards says ‘How much of your complexity is self inflicted? Simplify relentlessly.’

  4. Well said, Steve…and, might I add that all managers would do well to heed this advice. Hiding behind texts and emails is not effective! The problems will not go away, and quite often texts and emails can be misinterpreted.

  5. They are very interesting tips that you, indirectly, gave in this article. Being a professional in human resources means being available, knowing how to listen, knowing how to understand human complexity, finding the best solutions and especially managing to please everyone or at least trying to please everyone. But no one is perfect, so I think it is very important to know how to remain true to you and to know how to be flexible.

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