Time for change.
Living near a univeristy of some size you're always aware of its presence.
The Univeristy of Texas at Austin (the full and correct name for UT) is less than a mile from my door along with its 50,000 undergrads and untold numbers of grads, profs, office workers, groundskeepers and so on.
But its a time of change
The neighborhood is quiet now as final exams are underway. I can tell this is so becuase the coffee shops and local gym are close to empty as students rush to finish last minute studying.
But in just a few weeks you won't be able to get a table at any of the neighborhood cafés as moms and pops come to town to take their prodigy out for one last meal before returning to the farm for the summer.
And then by June, parking spaces will be magically open at the local grocers and the No. 7 bus will have seats available again if only for a while.
Life has its seasons
Needs rise and fall as the seasonality of life ebbs and flows.
At work we can see the same dynamic in effect as products and services are imagined, created and launched in growing firms. And the yin and yang of the world ensures that for every business expanding there is another contracting somewhere.
For HR and leadership knowing how to respond to the seasonality and difference of these needs is essential.
One of my first bosses was an HR Policy geek – she loved writing policy. But she was out of season. The shop I worked in was doubling in size from 600 to over 1200 heads in less than a year: they needed talent and technology, not policy. She had the wrong solution at the wrong time and didn't last long.
Businesses in rapid growth mode need certain HR skills including recruiting and comp management. Firms in difficulty need more attention to engagement and retention. And in decline you'll need to be smart about how to assess talent, cut staff and then refocus the survivors.
These are all different skills. None of this is “administrative” as HR haters like to say. These are real times – some good, some not – with real people demanding real HR skill.
Knowing the season you're in helps frame the right solutions and keeps us from offering ideas and plans that are out of sync.
And just as the seasons continue inexorably so does the life cycle of our firms: they won't be down – or up – forever. Staying a step or two ahead of this rhythmic change is the sine qua non of the HR professional. Its not enough to know where the business is – where's it going?
You want to be effective at HR and add real value? Know the season you're in and where you're headed. And take care of the people.
That last part hasn't gone out of season yet.