Media and advocacy

Paradox navigators

2 November 2020, 
Sarah McCann-Bartlett

"It’s the economy, stupid.” This quote is often mistakenly attributed to Bill Clinton. In fact, it was his presidential campaign strategist, James Carville, who pasted it on their campaign office walls to remind everyone to focus on one thing and one thing only – the economy.

US voters heard his positive messages about the economy and voted him in as America’s 42nd President in 1993, despite questions raised about his character at the time. In politics, we often see tensions between a candidate’s perceived character and their policies. We are seeing other kinds of tensions growing in government, business and the community right now.

From the HR perspective, two tensions are at the front of my mind – one between the health and business responses to COVID-19, and the other between ethical culture and the profit imperative. In Victoria, for example, the tension between the public health response to the pandemic and economic growth is exceptionally high due to the prolonged lockdown in Melbourne and across the state.

The second area of tension on my mind is that of organisations behaving badly – in many cases businesses have been prioritising profits over ethics and their people. Needless to say, this tension between ethics and profit shouldn’t even exist. Regardless, shortcuts are taken, rules bent or broken, and workplace cultures compromised.

Fortunately, COVID-19 has been different in many ways. As hard as this year has been, it has been HR’s time to shine. While some employers have experienced speed bumps, I’m comforted by the fact that others have pointed to HR as critical navigators who’ve shown great levels of tenacity, resilience and forward thinking.

The experience and skills HR leaders have worked hard to hone have benefited organisations in their recovery planning, so have their relationship building skills. HR has helped leaders and employees connect better to drive higher levels of organisational trust

during this period of turbulence. We know from AHRI’s latest pulse survey that HR felt their influence on the executive team rose by almost 15 per cent throughout the crisis. That’s a remarkable feat but not a surprising one. Executives have relied upon the trusted counsel of their HR professionals, myself included. In my opinion, these strong bonds need to be sustained and expanded to drive workplaces that are future-ready, agile and one step ahead of the pack. At AHRI, we believe the key to achieving this is through certification.

Certified HR practitioners bring credible leadership, meet a globally-benchmarked standard of HR practice, and have a strong commitment to ongoing professional development – making them a valuable asset to any organisation.