According to a Reward Gateway report in 2020, 71 per cent of HR leaders said that 2020 was the most challenging year in their HR career. Research from HR consultancy LHH in the UK and Ireland showed that 93 per cent of HR decision-makers feel more pressure than ever before. The result increased mental health issues and absenteeism in HR, causing great concern for the people supporting the people.
We are in the throes of a global pandemic, In addition to social and political injustices causing HR to have to manage with an unprecedented amount of terminations, furloughs including in some cases their own. All while figuring out new ways of working faster and smarter than ever before.
HR has been responsible for numerous functions for decades, including but not limited to onboarding, talent management, succession planning, payroll & Benefits, employee discipline, industrial relations, compliance, and the list goes on and on.
Imagine living in Europe, Asia, North or South America where you have teams of individuals taking care of pieces in that pie, utilizing the latest technology, with high-stress levels.
Now, imagine living in the Caribbean. In most organizations, you have one or two HR Generalists on a team to service an organization of 50 or more employees. No even ratios (x amount of HR to x amount of employees), carrying out these same functions for years on end with little to no support, direction or technology, in addition to balancing their personal lives. It is a recipe for an onslaught of mental health issues, including burnout and depression of epic proportions.
Having been a survivor of HR burnout twice myself, I believe it is crucial to bring awareness to this plight, and I want to share why this needs to be urgently addressed.
Very early in my career, I always wondered where I could find HR for HR? Did it even exist? How do we get the support that we need to continue to give our organizations our best selves?
I began my journey to find HR for HR support but kept coming up empty most of the time and getting very frustrated.
In my HR career of 15+ years, I have whined about various situations in my job to my mother, husband, and friends alike. While they give a listening ear, they do not understand the complexities of this profession we call Human Resources. They definitely will not have the expertise to offer the best advice and support on the way forward.
You have employers’ confederations, legal counsel, and labour bureau’s to interpret and provide guidance on the law. So why does HR need HR for HR?
HR professionals experience trauma daily and never fully process it, leading to a build-up of unresolved trauma. Here are some scenarios:
- Terminating someone that you know did not deserve to be released.
- A leader was belittling you in front of a group of your peers.
- The process you go through with employees and family members when an employee dies in service.
- Supporting an employee through a sexual harassment case.
- Supporting an employee with mental health issues.
- Supporting an employee experiencing domestic violence.
- Holding company secrets and shame that you know will devastate others in the workplace.
I bet you were able to relate to some, if not all, of the above, as you read through those scenarios, and these are just a few of the situations that we face daily.
Ask yourself, every time you went through a complex matter, did you take the time to process it and heal? Chances are you did not, at least not entirely. So how can you give your company 100% when you have not taken the time to recover from your trauma, be it vicarious or direct? HR for HR support can be a great asset during these times.
Many of my clients say that they never talk about these events together with their friends in HR. Mentors in the profession can be helpful, but if your mentor is higher up the HR leadership chain, carving out time to talk can have its challenges.
A therapist does not need the lived experience of your profession to guide you; they’re the best people to help you manage trauma of any kind because that’s what they specialize in (among other things). I have found therapy to be beneficial as part of my healing process. Therefore, a delicate balance is required as you seek HR for HR support.
Here are some tips on how to get the best HR for HR support:
- Have a brave conversation with your leadership to let them know that you need help. Asking for help is a significant first step to healing. You cannot do it all, and you shouldn’t have to.
- Find creative ways to share your load. Is there someone on the Admin team looking for an opportunity to cross-train in HR? Give them some tasks that are not confidential to work on and see how they handle them.
- Hire a coach — Find an HRforHR coach (they do exist). A Coach with HR experience can empathize and connect with you in the way you need and can provide practical advice to help you through difficult situations. Simultaneously, providing clarity and helping you set clear goals for your personal and professional development.
- Find your #hrtribe — The people in your tribe may include groups or communities where you can find resources and a safe place to learn in. Communities such as CaribHR Forum, Hacking HR, and HR Girlfriends are a great place to start.
- Get educated on your mental health and learn how to detect it early in others so that you can direct them to safe spaces. Places such as Mental Health First Aid can support you in this process.
The best professionals have great support behind them, be it coaches, publicists, mentors or a community of like-minded friends that keep them honest. They are not going it alone. So, why do HR professionals believe that we have to do it all and brave it all on our own, without support?
We become our best selves when we introspect, confess and get the support we need to enhance wellbeing, competencies and skills. By implementing some of the steps outlined above, you’ll set yourself up for a healthy and successful HR career.
Julie Turney is an HRforHR Coach, Founder & CEO of HR@Heart Consulting Inc. A boutique coaching helps HR Professionals to build their resilience agility and find their “HR Voice”. Julie is also the author of the book Confessions of an HR Pro: Stories of Defeat & Triumph, Host of The HR Sound Off Podcast Show, and she is the lead organizer of DisruptHR Caribbean (Barbados, Trinidad & Jamaica).