A few recent conversations with our company’s receptionist have reminded me of two things: 1 – HR’s unique opportunity to bring people and resources together; and 2 – It is often the “little” conversations that spark the true “eureka” moments and help people and resources connect in meaningful ways.
Playwright … Parent … Receptionist
In chatting with our receptionist, Carla, over the past year, I’ve gotten to know her from a variety of perspectives. Taken at face value, she works hard to serve the company’s needs everyday from 9 – 5 – whether it is “putting a smile into her voice” every time she answers a call, or helping to support other projects. However, that isn’t where her true focus and calling reside.
Carla is a playwright … parent … non-profit director … spouse … church member … among many other roles … and she puts great energy, meaning, and vocational zeal into each of these roles. In short, she’s a really neat lady! Given the number of people holding down “ordinary” day jobs while pursuing their hopes and dreams outside of work, I’m sure your organization has people just like Carla, too.
Bridging the Personal and Professional
During one of our recent chats, I casually mentioned the specialty area of someone in our management consulting group. Carla reacted with amazement, as she has been answering our phones for over a year without knowing what this particular person (and many others) actually do on a daily basis (yes, our orientation and training programs need a lot of work – but that’s a story for another day!).
Having this information would not only help Carla serve clients better on the phone, but also had a “personal” impact. As it turns out, the consultant’s expertise and personal interests might benefit Carla’s non-profit group. This followed another chat a few weeks earlier in which, understanding other aspects of Carla’s background, I was able to suggest a project she may be able to assist us with beyond what would ordinarily be a receptionist’s role – and which can benefit both the company (by using internal expertise) and herself (personal and professional satisfaction). All of this just from a few “casual” conversations!
HR’s Ability to Connect Resources
These events reminded me of HR’s unique role as one of the few functions aware of resources, talents, capabilities, and needs across the whole organization. In this way, we’re best-positioned to help connect employees with other employees, resources, and opportunities that benefit all involved.
This might happen in a variety of ways:
- In large organizations, there are sophisticated “knowledge-sharing” databases, and most recently, “chat rooms” and other “social media” venues
- Many firms have professional development programs (e.g., dedicated efforts — usually stemming from annual performance evaluations – to actively use internal and external resources for professional growth and renewal)
- Perhaps most to the point of this article, there is “HRBWA” (“HR By Walking Around”) – i.e., getting out of our offices and engaging in conversations with people throughout the organization; getting to know their skills, talents, hopes, dreams, and interests; and making the effort to put the people and pieces in touch with one another, whenever possible (in concert with the manager’s own efforts supporting their employees, of course).
In the constant swirl of events, it is very easy for “HRBWA” to fall by the wayside – a “nice to have” that gets sacrificed to the urgent item of the moment (“I can’t talk to anyone today. I have to get Project ‘x’ done.”). If we can fight this urge – at least occasionally – great things (both large and small) may occur.
For me, there is great personal and professional satisfaction when “little things” like my chats with Carla come together in a way that serves a larger purpose. What are some of your experiences in helping people “connect the dots” and connect with each other?