Caring about employees isn’t about hugs.


Interesting rant post where you ask a great question: Do our organizations actually care about people?  I’m in agreement with you that it seems that somewhere along the line, many organizations have aspired to become like machines who are people independent.  This “depersonalization” of organizations is contributing to an economy that produces survey after survey of a workforce that says they are unhappy and prepared to look for another job at any moment.

In your ranting comments, it seemed to me that you started with your focus on the organization overall, but then slowly turned to nearly accusing human resources of being guilty of not caring as well.  This is where we differ.  While I’m the first to be critical of my profession–we need to do a lot of things better in HR–I have never found one of HR’s weaknesses to be a lack of concern and care for employees.  In most organizations, if there’s anywhere you will find people who care about people, it will be in HR.  The problem is that HR doesn’t create culture, leaders do.  And, sadly, a large percentage of the leaders in business today got to be leaders by being technical experts or by producing specific results, many times in spite of people rather than with or through them.  These leaders don’t care because they’ve never had to.

HR cares, they just don’t generally have the tools to influence leaders that they should care too.  That’s why HR ends up spending time with tools like engagement surveys and ROI analysis.  In many cases, these are viewed as a way to put people practices into the terms of those leaders who don’t care.  The  hope being that if I can package doing good things for people in numbers and processes, these leaders might buy in.  In come cases, this works.  In many it doesn’t because the definition of what it means to care for our employees isn’t clear.

You and I have always shared in common the trait that we aren’t the touchy feely type.  If anything, we are sort of the opposite–we might scare people away with our intensity.   So, I want to clarify what I mean by “do you care?” when it comes to organizations, leaders and employees.

  1. Do you care enough to hold people accountable to doing work?
  2. Do you care enough to tell you peer that they are behaving in a way that is destroying their career, even through they may hate you for conversation?
  3. Do you care enough to pay people more than you have to?
  4. Do you care enough to fire an employee who clearly hates their job but lacks the courage to do something about it?
  5. Do you care enough not to hire someone into a job unless it’s a great fit for them and their goals?
  6. Do you care enough to allow employees to voice their opinion openly and without penalty, even when they disagree with you or the “company line?”
  7. Do you care enough to let your employees make mistakes, even painful ones, so long as their are trying to do the right thing?
  8. Do you care enough to tell your employees the truth, even when it makes you look like a fool?

There’s nothing about hugs on the list.  Caring about people is realizing that people want to care about their work, we just don’t let them (or ask them to).  We create environments that are so stressful and limiting that people are more concerned about just keeping their jobs than they are about doing great work.  HR isn’t at fault here, but we need to be the solution.



  1. I’m going to side with Jason on this topic – HR professionals typically care about people, they just don’t know how to make that care actionable within the current business structures. I’m also completely on the anti-hug, pro-real-caring bandwagon that you and Joe are helping to assemble.

    Recruitment is my bag. I connect people and organizations. Recruitment is where the rubber meets the road in the employment relationship. I can clearly visualize a business world where recruitment activities are done in a manner that speak to the needs of organizations AND humans. Whenever someone allows me the slightest opening I preach that vision but that vision is given a polite nod and a smile and then we all go back to herding people-units into positions. I will not stop preaching the better (and caring) way, but it’s an uphill battle and it’s lonely.

    Jason – your point about engagement surveys and ROI tools rings true as well. At it’s core, the conversation about Employment Branding that you and I have had is about creating an employment culture that cares about people. I try to sneak caring in the side door using this branding language and I’ve had some traction in this area. I just presented an employment branding workshop to a group of Walmart store managers. They were engaged in the conversation and seemed ready to take a few front-end steps to address their employment branding problems. The reality is that I told them they have to care about the people who make up their organization. I remain guardedly hopeful that these small talks will eventually lead us to businesses that care in real ways (as opposed to huggy ways) about their employees.

    Take Care and keep talking


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