“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
This past week I had the opportunity to visit with the person who hired me for my first full-time job in HR. Thirty years later, this amazing individual continues to be a dear friend and valued mentor. We reminisced about our past challenges and accomplishments and noted that so much has changed in the world of work. Artificial intelligence, data analytics, enhanced online applicant tracking systems, and video recruiting are just some examples of processes have altered the role, and therefore required competencies, of HR professionals.
Yet, while we chatted about the evolution and amendments faced by our profession, we also noted that a critical element of our work has not changed – the need to genuinely care for the people we serve.
This led me to reflect upon numerous articles that I have read stating that “HR isn’t for nice people” and that our profession needs to focus on required technical skills in lieu of being known as a repository for soft-skilled people. I find this concerning, as this seems to imply an either/or approach to our work. To me, this is often the “elephant in the room” that HR does not want to address. We worry that speaking about, and advocating for, softer skills and a compassionate approach to our work could make us appear weak and less professional.
After many years of working in HR and being an educator to those who will be the future of our profession, I still believe that if we ignore the emotive and caring elements of our interactions with others, we do so at our own peril. While knowledge of legal requirements, organizational processes and company systems and policies is of critical importance, these will only be effective if they are implemented and utilized in a thoughtful manner. We speak (and write) at length about motivating employees and creating healthy workplace cultures, but are hesitant to encourage people to bring their whole authentic selves to work. True employee engagement and effective outcomes can only be achieved through an artful blending of technical competencies and heartfelt concern for people.
I invite you to dialogue with your colleagues and/or your students and address the following questions:
– How can an organization create and maintain a culture that supports and cares for employees in meaningful ways?
– Are your employees comfortable laughing and crying at work? Is true emotion welcome and accepted?
– Why are organizations hesitant to openly discuss and recognize the importance of competencies that rely on both the head and the heart? What can be done to change this?
Let’s engage in meaningful conversations and find methods to enhance the ways in which we interact with, and support others, in the workplace. In the end, this is the heart of the matter.
Melanie Peacock PhD, MBA, CPHR
P.S. Eileen Stewart and I are pleased to announce the publication of our latest textbook Understanding Human Resources Management. A Canadian Perspective. (1st Edition). This was a labor of love and certainly involved both head and heart. More information, including how instructors may order a desk copy, may be found at: