Chuck all the Competencies and just focus on ‘The Joy of Serving’

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As the appraisals come to an end in most of the organizations, the HR moves on to conducting the skill and competency gap exercises. For a change we witness many organizations giving fair importance, if not equal, to assessing the gaps of their HR team also.

When we delve into what are the competencies that the HR professionals require, we witness a wide gambit of them – ranging from fashionable ones like CHRO, Business Partner and Analytics to the simpler ones like Negotiation Skills and Conflict management. What comes across as a surprise is that most of us miss a key element core to any HR professional, namely- Compassion.

Many of us chose HR as a profession by choice; but there are many others who have come into this profession not on account of Passion, but that of Process. Some because of organization requirements or job rotations, while the reason for others was as simple as that during their MBA, they felt choosing this specialization was an easy route to complete the course.

In short, what we witness is that HR is the only profession which doesn’t have a standard course with an equal emphasis on practice or hands-on experience. More often we see a diversity & mix of backgrounds and knowledge levels among HR professionals.  At times it is good since it builds a diverse range of experience &expertise; yet at the same time, it also results in a lack of a consistent solid layer at the very base.

So what competency is the bedrock of any HR professional?

Well, the debate is still on, but one that stands undisputed is certainly- Compassion. The HR professional must possess a mindset to help other, irrespective of what role and hierarchy we are in or how much the organization rules & policy enable the same.

How does one describe the competency of Compassion? In simple words, it is the ‘The joy of Serving’ others.

Some of the key fundamentals of Joy of Serving are as follows:

  • Employees are my Clients – Simple & Period!

We need to quickly realize that Employees are our clients and we as a function exist to serve them as organizations exist to serve external clients. Unfortunately, it has become a trend to treat employees as a pain and a general belief that they are all eternal cribbers.  For once, pause and try to remember those N-numbers of times we hated the experience of not being treated properly & kept waiting when we stepped out for a lavish dinner or called a bank helpline for information. Then how can we end up telling our employees not to chase us for update or information. Rather why can’t we tell them that we will get back to them as and when our checklist burden lessens?

We need to rebuild our outlook toward how we treat our employees. We should realize that we earn our salaries because of them and our founding philosophy it to serve them with Joy.

  • We are a Service Function

In our zeal to become business partners, we have missed the point that we are still a service function. Just because of the introduction of technology or numbers we cannot change our outlook. The idea is to become an enabling function where we identify the hidden synergies and act as a catalyst to empower them and exploit them.

We need to continue to function as a service function and appreciate that technology can only be a     facilitator in this process. For example, an employee would still love to receive a call on his birthday or anniversary by HR rather than a lifeless eCard. What technology can do in here is that it can help remind the HR Professional as to which associates birthday or anniversary is coming up next. We need to get back the Human Touch in the HR.

  • We Cannot Solve Everything & Should not Attempt the same

The Joy of Serving doesn’t mean we have to bend backward for everything and everybody. It is not about ensuring that the end results are positive in favor of the employees, it is about being fair and    playing by the rules.

In this complex world, we will encounter deviations and exceptions and we will have to manage them. That means we cannot solve every single problem in one go and there would be stakeholders whom we will end up disappointing. This isn’t a failure for us, but when the stakeholder doesn’t understand ‘why’ the problem was not resolved and believes that it was our whim and whimsy which resulted in it, we sure have a problem on our hands.

  • We can be polite even when being assertive

Being assertive is not the opposite of Joy of Serving, but there is a fine line between being rude and   being firm. Some situations may demand us to be firm / assertive with our stakeholders and we shouldn’t hesitate in doing so.  What is critical is to understand and appreciate that we can be firm and polite at the same. As children we all had these experiences where our family never hesitated from pampering us, but at the same time drew the boundary line for what was allowed and what was not.

Many a times, we miss the clue in here because we see ourselves as the guardian of the policies, frameworks and work ethos and see the stakeholders who are not aligned to the same as offenders. We forget that we are not the ‘Police’, but the quiet ‘Gardner’; wherein we need to nurture with care & compassion and weed out what is not good.

  • If we don’t Enjoy doing this, maybe it is time to quit

The biggest challenge is many of us are not sure what we are doing in our job or is the right profession we have chosen, wherein we are nobody’s favorite and do a thankless job throughout the day. It certainly is not one of the perks, but comes with the territory of our job descriptions. All jobs have occupational hazards and for us, as HR professionals this is the one. If we don’t like this essential element, it is always better to move on and get into another profession.

The joy of serving isn’t the one and only competence to Nirvana, but solid bedrock on which all the other competencies and skills for HR should be built on. It is futile that we may have best of skills in our professionals in terms of technology or analytics, but a heart of compassion missing. Our dream should be to ultimately move from the ‘The joy of Serving’ to the ‘Honor in Serving’.

-K Srinivas Rao

About The Author

K Srinivas Rao, Chief Strategist and Partner, is a human capital strategist with the expertise of 23 years across Human Capital Value Chain. Prior to The Strategist, he was heading Strategy – HR at Satyam Computer Services. Formerly, he held management roles at various levels in CATS (Computer Associates-TCG), Baan Info Systems, Ernst & Young, Videocon International.

An avid writer and guest speaker on the subject of Change Management and Human Capital, he wrote 5 books under the “101 Smart Ideas Series” published in 2015, “Managing HR Issues in a Merger” – published in the Handbook of Business Strategy 2002,“Whispers of a Devil in an Angel”,“Principles and Practices of Management”. He also co-authored a book titled ‘Unconscious Leadership Conspiracy’ and has published more than a dozen articles in International & National Publications.

Mr. Rao holds dual Masters’ degrees and attended Indore School of Social Work, where he topped the class of ‘93 and later pursued Masters in Military Sciences. Currently, he is a Research Scholar at XLRI Jamshedpur and a visiting faculty at ISB and IIM Indore. He was awarded “HR Leadership Award” in 2008-09 by Employer Branding Institute and Super Achiever as HR Professional in 2006 by Indira Group and Fun & Joy Institute.