The important role of HR as an instiller of joy

The role of HR is the most critical role in organisations today. While people leadership and management are a shared responsibility with peers, the main custodian of the people agenda, the translation of strategy into the implications for your people and the orchestration of any subsequent changes that are needed to be made lies firmly within the domain of HR.

An HR leader wears multiple hats all at the same time: facilitator, coach, adviser, strategist, operator, adviser, counsellor, secret keeper – and so many more.

At the same time as wearing these hats, HR is required to drive, lead, manage and execute change, support others through the process and cope with the personal implications of that change on HR roles too.

It is no surprise therefore that HR leaders who set their sights on the top job can become CEOs.

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Empower employees to be happy at work

Life and work are going to experience even more change. It is the only constant and certainty that can be expected. Recent experiences of the pandemic and its implications for the world of work and home, the war in Ukraine and the displacement of people and so much more demonstrate that the HR role is unlikely to become easier.

The implications for health – emotional, mental, and physical – for HR and the people in the organisations for whom it is responsible will be significant. Mental health issues cost the UK economy over £118 billion a year according to this research conducted by the LSE and one can only assume that some of those issues are not only experienced in the world of work but also experienced by some of the members of the HR profession.

Now is the time for HR to examine ways by which its people and the people that it serves can stand firm and remain standing in the eye of the storm, whatever emerges. The one significant way in which this can be done is through the finding and instilling of joy.

Joy is the result of the development of two important capabilities: love and purpose. 

Love is the most critical leadership and organisational capability needed in the world today. It is the unconditional acceptance of all of who you are as a human being, warts and all and the unconditional acceptance of another. It is the capability that equips you with the ability to see yourself and others for the human beings that you are and to separate behaviour from the person.

Love compels you to see beyond what is heard, seen, and felt to a place of knowledge that each person including you in HR is much more than how they present. It makes you walk in awareness that there is a family, a village and/or a whole community behind each human being in the workplace.

Love is what ensures authenticity - the genuine transparency of communication and the clarity of understanding that every business decision made is one that is made with an intent to ensure the best result for all the people impacted. Its symptoms are kindness, compassion, listening, forgiveness, courage, speaking up, and self-care, all of which need to start with the HR leader. Why? Because you cannot pour from an empty cup.  

For each member of the HR profession to be consistently at their best requires a dedication to self-nurture and care and they in turn must enable and empower the leaders they support to do the same for themselves and their teams. Love demands an obsession with self-awareness and mastery that helps you understand that the more you know who you are and how you are likely to react in different and diverse situations, the more able you are to respond with intention.

Purpose on the other hand is fundamentally about your 'why'. It is knowing who you are in the world, the clarity of your direction, an appreciation of why you do what you do, how you do it and when you do it. It is the clarity of vision regarding the difference you want to make in the world and to whom. Purpose is the anchor that reminds you on those days when nothing seems to go right, that you are right where you need to be.

When you combine love and purpose you have joy. Joy therefore comes from within you. It is not dependent on the external circumstances that you face and experience. It is the root from which the tree of resilience, contentment, hope, and inspiration grows in you and when you instil it in others, in them. 

The role of HR is therefore not only to find and instil joy in its people, it is also to encourage, inspire and cajole others to find and instil theirs.

When an organisation is full of joyful leaders – and we all are leaders no matter our organisational status – it becomes an organisation in which all of its people without exception can remain standing in the eye of any storm that may come their way. If all its people can remain standing, so can the organisation, the customers, consumers and clients that it serves and the communities they represent.

Yetunde Hofmann is managing director at Synchrony Development Consulting and founder of Solaris Executive Leadership Development