“To have a friend, you’ve got to be a friend” someone told me recently, in a non work related context. It stuck with me a little for a few reasons.
When I think back at some of the interesting people I’ve met in my working career so far, I recognise that it took a small amount of work to source them, but a stronger, reciprocal contribution to learn from and help them.
In my time in one previous employer I learned a great deal from someone I became very close friends with. They were close to retirement and had less of an interest in some of the “new” areas of HR that was being introduced within the business at that time, but what they didn’t know about employee relations, traditional ‘personnel management’ and the core competencies of the business, really wasn’t worth knowing.
I’d spend hours with this individual, learning as much as I could, being taught stuff that I often didn’t know that I needed to learn, or even didn’t particularly want to learn, but this was my friend, and I knew that by giving him an ear to talk about some of this stuff, it was probably helpful to him as much as it was to me.
This is just one example. Others I remember from outside of the HR department include a financial controller, a colliery overman, a resident within a care home, they all helped me do my jobs better at the particular time that I was employed within those organisations, and overall the collective sum of what I was being informed and taught undoubtedly helped me develop in a broader sense.
My journey into becoming an evidence-based HR professional has taught me that of the four sources of evidence we can seek to help address organisational problems, there is one source that we mustn’t take for granted, and thats the evidence in the form of data, information, and views of the stakeholders of our organisation.
Stakeholder evidence isn’t just that of those who lead our businesses, but those who have a vested interest in the work that we are doing and in helping the business succeed. The people who drive value, who gain from it, who are serviced by it or support the business elsewhere within the supply chain, are all key stakeholders.
Not only is it helpful to forge relationships with these people to help our business, but they will inevitably become a source of learning for us as HR practitioners too. These individuals won’t always be the obvious colleagues and managers that you work with and look towards for assistance, and so identifying them can be harder, and often can happen through luck, chance or circumstance.
But seeking them out is important. Networks should be more than like-minded individuals within our profession or within the business community helping each other. Ideally they should be broader than that.
Making an investment of your time, and having a genuine interest in select others within your business as well as being legitimately curious as to their views on the workplace and work activities can be helpful in ways you might not envisage, and as a bonus you might also get to make some new friends too.
So who can you go and speak to for a while that you might not have spoken with in any great detail before? What do you want to know and how can they help you? What will they want to share with you? How can you help them, and what would that mean for both them and you?