There are lots of people who are passionate about the positive impacts of the HR profession. Then there’s Steve Browne. He’s a gifted HR leader combined with being the ultimate cheerleader for the profession. I had the pleasure of chatting with him recently. You’ll want to be sure to print a copy of this conversation and refer to his advice often.
Scott: For those who’ve not yet met you Steve, what should they know about you and your work?
Steve: I’m kind of a unicorn when it comes to Human Resources because it’s the only field I’ve been in throughout my career. I’ve held various roles in distinctly different industries, but always in HR. My current role is the one people in HR dream about because I’m expected to be a strategic businessperson. It’s not that I haven’t done this in the past, but now it’s more intentional. I get to work on culture and moving the business forward through our people.
Scott: I love the title of your new book, “HR on Purpose !!” Why was it important for you to write this book now?
Steve: It’s important because I’ve grown weary of people tearing down Human Resources. We’re one of the few fields where people take shots at it on a fairly regular basis. I want my peers in HR to know that what they do matters organizationally, personally, and professionally. I felt that I had a message that was positive and genuine based on experience and not just theory.
Scott: One of the valuable things you address in the book is changing counterproductive mindsets. You challenge readers to give up their preconceived notions about HR and instead develop HR into what it could be. What’s one of the most common of these counterproductive mindsets? How can people begin to change this right now?
Steve: A significant counterproductive mindset is basing how you practice HR on the exceptions versus the majority. We tend to take some anomaly in behavior and make a massive, stringent policy or procedure to address a fringe situation. We continue to miss the majority of people who are great to work with and are doing their best. We’ve dehumanized the workplace through structure and systems. The first step to take is to understand that if you loosen the reigns a bit that chaos will not break out. It just won’t. People want to have expectations and parameters to work within, and not a set of do’s and don’ts. Trust that people will bring their best, and they will.
Scott: Many HR leaders tell me that they’re ready to embrace new ideas, such as the faster hiring process I developed that eliminates hiring delays. However, some are having trouble getting company executives to buy-in. How can these HR leaders engage executives to support them in making these changes?
Steve: I believe we need to remind ourselves that executives are employees too. Since we have the ability and opportunity to work with all employees, we can feel that executives are approachable if we treat them as people and not titles. HR needs to learn to speak the language of every level of the organization so that they can be heard and valued. When meeting with execs there needs to be a business case and a business impact as part of the conversation. It’s not that ideas aren’t great on their own. However, putting together something from an overall business perspective is more likely to be considered because you’re speaking their language.
Scott: One’s one simple secret most people don’t know about staying passionate as an HR leader?
Steve: I think you have to truly believe in people. Not some poster catchphrase or cutesy slogan. Believe in others. They’re aching for someone to do that on a regular basis throughout companies of all sizes and types. People want to belong and HR can be that link for them. That energy drives passion. I know people will disappoint me, but I will disappoint others at times as well. The humanity and uniqueness of people motivates me because I get to meet and learn about the world through their eyes. It never gets old.
Scott: What’s one closing piece of advice you’d like to share with our readers?
Steve: I’d love for your readers to know that what they do matters and has a lasting impact on the lives of people. This is far more than “work” or “HR.” We’re in the people business and we have the chance to shape and improve lives. Something as simple as a warm “Hello” that is intentional and not just done in passing may be the one thing that breaks through to someone who needed to be acknowledged and noticed. I don’t mean to sound utopian. It’s just time for HR to own who it is and what it does within an organization. It’s time for us to practice on purpose!! (double exclamation points intended)
Scott: It’s hard not to feel good about the valuable work done by HR professionals when you’ve got Steve Browne telling it like it is. Be sure to read his book and follow his work. Here’s how you can do both: