I was recently asked what attribute I possess which would contribute to the success working with a particular company ... in 250 characters or less. If you know me (Amanda), it is hard for me to state anything of merit in 250 characters, especially to describe a significant attribute. By the way - I just passed 250 characters in THIS post :). The greatest lesson I learned from this exercise (other than my need to improve brevity), is practicing empathy can make a good HR professional great. The ability to practice empathy, to relate to others and to understand where they are coming from can be an incredible tool for HR. As this post by SHRM shares further, empathy is not a soft skill, but a business skill. Empathy is not just a relationship tool, it is a business tool.
This can be hard to do, let's admit it. We have our own relationships, experiences and influences that stay hidden in the back of our heads, the little voices that chirp to help us formulate opinions. How do you shut that voice out, how do you maintain the desire to truly understand the situation from all directions? Practice empathy; ask questions, listen first and listen more. Be the mingling HR professional who gets out and visits the employees in their work-spaces, ~ don't be shut in behind a desk. Remember ~ spreadsheets don't need empathy, people do.
This can be done even in the most challenging and emotionally charged environments. In the book Crucial Conversations by Patterson/Grenny/McMillan & Switzler, mutual purpose is discussed at length. This is the idea that when conversations are hard and safety in the communication seems threatened, the facilitator demonstrates they are concerned about the person's interests and goals. Also that they are cared about. This helps to establish mutual purpose.
When I think about this, once again I see this as an opportunity for our profession to shine in supporting our organizations. HR professionals have an opportunity to show their employees that their claims will always be taken seriously, they will be treated fairly, and with dignity and respect. In turn, leadership can be confident with the communication culture for their employees, which contributes to the success of the company.