by Jeff Perkins, Chief People Officer, National Public Radio
Whether we represent a start-up or an organization that’s over 100 years old, HR professionals must stay aware of the ways in which their organization’s culture is changing. I use three simple ways to stay at the forefront of organizational change.
NPR has a different culture today than when we were established in 1970, fueled by changes in our funding sources and by disruptive technologies like mobile, satellite and cable distribution.
When I arrived in 2010, human resources had not kept up with the pace of change: the department was an afterthought—an “HR silo” in a remote location. That lack of organizational health culminated in a PR and HR crisis that saw the departure of several key executives following a high-profile contract termination (see box below).
Here’s the unhealthiest part: I never got a call about it. In fact, I was moving into my new living space in D.C. on the day the crisis unfolded. I did not know about it until it had already happened.
The incident showed why HR really matters and led to a lot of focus on short-term goals in my first year. It also represented a huge opportunity to rebuild and rebrand HR within the organization. These kinds of crises are inevitable at any company, but they can draw focus away from long-term goals and cause problems with morale and public confidence.
To resolve the immediate problems and to eliminate similar problems in the future, we took three key actions.
1. Lead the way
We leveraged opportunities for HR to lead a cultural shift toward organization health through alignment of key HR practices to corporate goals. We enhanced recruitment and hiring with emphasis on social media.
We also had a unique opportunity with a long-planned move to our new headquarters. This allowed me to find fantastic partners for our new space, including on-site dining with healthier choices and an on-site wellness center. It also allowed my team to revamp processes for training, recognition, engagement and wellness.
2. Become an ‘embedded reporter’
I lived and breathed our core business by moving my office from its off-site location to the heartbeat of NPR: its newsroom.
This helped me build deeper understanding and trust, and it allowed me to figure out tactics for moving forward. My team also took the pulse of the organization through an employee survey.
3. Be the company
NPR tells stories, creates an informed public and holds people to high standards. So now NPR HR tells stories using innovative forms of communication. We also seek to model the ideal version of NPR in our practices.
Like our journalists, we hold HR to the highest standard and inform our HR customers. Most of all, we have created a sustainable and healthy culture, with the HR department leading by example.
We aren’t there yet and have more to do, but we are on the right path. You can get there, too.
Don’t wait to be proactive. Start getting creative now. How can HR become a revenue center in your workplace? To create and manage change, you have no influence without relationships. Every interaction is a chance to cultivate a relationship.
Get out of the bunker mentality many HR departments have. You can get quick wins when you set out to make changes. Once you have those quick wins and some credibility, you’ll be better able to move to broader organizational issues. That’s when the results of your hard work will really pay off with a healthier organization.
Jeff Perkins is Chief People Officer at NPR. He previously worked for News Corp., Time Warner, Nielsen, Pepsi and he founded executive search and consulting firm Huntbridge. He is based in Washington, D.C.
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