Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | January 3, 2012

Best Resolutions for California HR in 2012

By Martha I. Finney

Here’s the first understatement of the year:  2012 is shaping up to be a doozy – especially for HR.  Is there anything that touches the headlines that won’t directly impact the way you do your work? As I write this, Congress is wrestling with payroll tax negotiations.  Our returning vets need to rebuild their lives —  preferably employed in the civilian sector. Immigration. Healthcare. Unemployment, of course.  The fact that the country has never been so divided in an election year since, perhaps, the Civil War.  This year, it won’t be brother against brother. It will be coworker against coworker. And the one question that influences so many of the decisions we’ll make: Will the economy expand or contract even more in 2012?

Want to make a quick buck next year? Here’s what you do: Print up a bunch of T-shirts that read, “I survived the earthquake of 2012.”   Only this time the earthquake is 2012.

As much as HR will probably be the corporate function most affected by the goings on of 2012, HR is probably the profession most equipped to take it on.  HR is used to operating in an atmosphere of constant uncertainty.  You have to pack a philosophical approach to the people side of your operation to help your enterprise achieve its business objectives. And you’ve been pivoting on a dime for, what, how long now? While everyone else will be in a panic because the plans designed on last quarter’s projections aren’t panning out, you’re rolling up your sleeves to take another whack at finding a wiser approach to the changed scenario. That’s what you do.

You save jobs. You save businesses. You save families. You save communities. You help make dreams come true.  And now, you could use a little extra support as we all walk into 2012.  So in the spirit of providing HR with some comfort and joy for the upcoming months, I spoke with some of California’s best HR leaders to discover what they would recommend to be the best resolutions for HR in 2012:

I will approach my HR responsibilities next year with a fresh perspective, willingness to leave behind outmoded ways of doing things and openness to risk and new ideas. (Arte Nathan, former VP/HR, Irvine Company, now Laguna Beach-based consultant)

While HR has been transforming rapidly in recent years, trends watchers agree that the changes that 2012 will bring may transform the world so fundamentally that true leaders will have to be willing to jettison almost everything they thought they knew — and approach this new year with courage and an open mind.

I will approach everything I do from the reference point of yes. (Mark Torres, SVP, People and Culture, Rubicon Project)

Your yeses don’t have to be commitments to deliver on unrealistic, unwise, or inappropriate ideas. Your yeses keep you in the game as a partner in building your organization’s future.  You are saying yes to the collaborative spirit of working with your colleagues to invent the best scenarios and solutions as a team.  And when a necessary no must emerge from your group exploration, it will be a team no.  In the meantime, your door still says yes on it.

I will take the time to be a mentor, and encourage my colleagues to honor the mentoring process as well. (Terry McCormick, VPHR, Easter Seals, Southern California)

No one will argue the value of mentoring. In fact, its value is so obvious, it’s easy to take mentoring for granted – something on the “it’ll get done one of these days.” But it never gets done.  Something more urgent takes its place.  Every time.

2012 will get away from you, if you let it. You and your team will be so busy chasing fires and emergencies that you will forget to take the time to freely exchange wisdom, perspective, approaches, and techniques that will keep the body of HR knowledge alive. This is especially vital to remember as HR professionals begin to retire at an accelerating rate.  Commit to creating and sustaining a culture that mentors – up, down, and sideways. Everyone, no matter how young they are, have essential knowledge to share.

I will ensure that the people we have hired are developed to the point that they can add more value to the organization.  (Adrienne Gary, SPV Organizational Strategy and Administration, Miramax LLC)

So many aspects of doing business will be changing in 2012 that it’s not a stretch to say that we must all be entrepreneurial this year. We’re start-ups because we’ll be starting afresh in many ways.  As with every start-up, we have to make the absolute most of the talent we have. We’re operating lean and we have to hang on to our trusted resources. At the same time we have to keep our people inspired and motivated to continue contributing their best in the upcoming months.

It’s a rare organization that can use the old mechanisms to motivate and engage.  Mechanisms like money, for instance.  Look for ways to help your people develop and grow their skills and careers. Then, ideally, they’ll grow as your organization grows. You’ll not only keep your talent excited about giving their best to your enterprise, you’ll keep your talent. Period.

I will help my organization rediscover what’s wonderful about itself. (Laurey Long, director of HR, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles)

You’ve probably heard the expression: That which you feed the most grows the most. What are you feeding your attention to the most? All the challenges, problems, emergencies and anxieties?  Or do you feed the awareness among your people that your enterprise has an inspiring mission that will make the world a better place in some way.

Don’t let your people become so distracted by the challenges that 2012 will fling at them throughout the year that they forget why they’re doing the work they do.  What makes your organization wonderful?  What is the vision of your enterprise that will restore the hope and positivity of not only your employees but all your stakeholders?  As the HR leader it is your job to keep your employees’ focus on all those things that are good about what your organization offers your community.

This year, give yourself the gift of passion and preserve positivity as your core approach to facing 2012 head on.  There will be plenty to tempt you toward negativity. So you may have to look a little harder than usual for those reassuring, uplifting reminders that the people side of business is where the heart of your operation resides.  You are the keeper of that flame. The shepherd of your company’s culture.  You’re the one in charge of doing right by both the people and the successful enterprise you’re all working together to create.

No matter how long you’ve been in the profession, there’s just no getting around this simple fact: There’s simply no better corporate function than the people part.

Keep that thought in your heart and head as you march bravely into 2012.

Happy New Year. You deserve it.

Bio: Martha Finney is an employee engagement consultant and speaker who especially loves engaging HR professionals. She is the author or co-author of 17 books on employee engagement and HR career management, including HR From the Heart, with Libby Sartain. For a free copy of her complete nationwide collection of best resolutions for HR for 2012,  email her at


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