Reimagine your HR practices and carve a new path forward

Anyone who has worked with us knows that everything we do flows from culture. We’ve talked about this a lot in our posts and when we work with our clients, we always take the time to learn who you are, what matters, what you’re working towards – and your ‘why.’

In this post, we get more into the nitty gritty of what all this means… and it all starts with your why.

What do we mean by ‘the why’?

Whether you’re developing a new employee handbook or a performance/professional development program or considering how to work through ongoing employee relations challenges, always start with your values/culture, and most importantly your ‘why.’ Contrasted from ‘what’ your organization does, your ‘why’ is the concept/way of being that is ultimately being offered/provided as a result of what you do. It’s why employees connect to a given organization, want to work there, and do good work.

Like many organizations, we’ve adopted our thinking of the ‘why’ based on Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. We encourage you to get acquainted with this concept and get clear on the why (in addition to the what and how) for your organization.

Policy/compliance versus culture/practices and ways

Our team views HR through the three lenses of culture, protection, and productivity, whereas, much of HR (and subsequently HR practices) is viewed/developed only through the lens of protection (i.e., policy, legislation, and compliance). While legislation is important and organizations are required to follow it, how you implement and uphold it is what sets you apart (e.g., following the ESA or CLC to the minimum letter of the law versus ensuring it aligns with your culture).

As we indicated in our post entitled Policy vs. Handbook – Does it Matter?, an employee handbook and associated practices need not be formal, bureaucratic, and called “policy” in order to be compliant. The point is, that it guides and supports employee conduct and the mutual employment relationship, and that it’s read and understood. If it doesn’t achieve that, there’s little point in having it. When we review very formal policy manuals written from a legal perspective only, on average, we see the word ‘shall’ 560 times, ‘discipline’ 40 times, ‘policy’ 65 times, and ‘termination’ 110 times. This is an example of using policy manuals as weapons rather than the resource they’re intended to be.

What if we started with culture?

We work with clients to help draw out the aspects that are fundamental to who they are and why they exist. For some (e.g., First Nations), this includes who they are as a community, aspects of their history, traditions, and culture as a people. Our work based on this might, for example, involve writing employee handbooks or developing performance programs based on the 7 Grandfather Teachings or the Medicine Wheel. When employers see how using these values or aspects of their culture can align with their people practices, it also highlights the ways their former/existing practices are steeped in colonization. They can then begin to move away from that.

Creating practices through the lens of ‘the why’ centers the people being served – the reason your organization exists. Employees are then continuously reminded of why they do what they do and the key role they play in that process. When employees can see themselves in HR practices, they feel more connected and engaged to both the organization and the people they’re ultimately serving.

Changing language is more than just words

Written policies on their own aren’t enough to drive or change behaviour. This is especially true when they’re written with formal, punitive/policing, and hard to understand legalese (i.e., bureaucratic and colonial). When employees (who, let’s not forget, are adults) continuously read that if they do X, they’ll be punished, or if they don’t do X, they’ll be subject to discipline, they stop reading/absorbing information fast. But when they resonate with what they read and hear, when they connect with it, and it makes sense to them (and most importantly, when the talk is walked), they’re much more likely to read it, learn it, and appreciate where they work.

So much of what we read in policies is focused on conflict, grievance, complaints, and discipline, rather than reciprocity, dialogue, working together, and giving people the necessary tools. When we reframe in this way, we build connections. For example, you can create a safe and culturally aligned hiring environment that eliminates corporate and colonial terminology (e.g., an invitation to connect versus a pre-screen call; a discussion versus an interview). You can encourage development and performance by focusing on a positive growth process versus progressive discipline. And rather than have Key Performance Indicators, you can develop processes focused on Keeping People <Interested, Informed, Involved, and Inspired>.

Our approach is about reimagining HR

Although our approach includes all three of the culture, protection, and productivity lenses, a fundamental starting point is culture (the why, the what, and the how). To learn about an organization’s culture, we listen to stories, experiences, inspirations, and challenges, through ‘get to know you’ sessions – and we continue to listen along the way. We seek out new perspectives and work collaboratively in partnership with our clients. While we bring the HR expertise, we know that those we work with are the experts in their businesses/organizations/communities and are livers/creators of their own experiences and stories. Only when we know who you are, do we begin to build and connect practices tied to your why, your values, your tradition, and your culture. Approaching work with a whole heart and as whole people, we take the time to get to know who YOU and your people are, just as we get to know your organization.

While we would never claim to be experts in decolonization, we work with you to learn and to unlearn colonial practices (and continue our own learning journey along the way). This allows all of us to approach work/practices from a place of love versus a place of fear and control.

Just like beginning to use new language and words, things have to change, and legislation has to catch up. If we wait for the legislation, we’ll be waiting a long time. Start to carve a new path. While you may not see the impact of those small changes now, over time they’ll build on each other for a new way forward. We encourage you to be the change you want to see, even if it’s just one step.

Let our HR Consultants help you reimagine and move your HR practices forward.