Business is down, this is your HR budget

My partner Laura and I are taking our roles in Project Social very seriously and want to make a difference with what we are doing.  We are trying to talk at least once a week and this seems to be enough to keep the project moving forward. While this week, Laura and I continued work on our super-secret world changing project (sswcp), we talked about some more mundane HR matters. 

I spend my most of my days in what Charlie  Judy –HRFishbowl  calls trenchHR  Laura is removed from the trenches by one degree of separation, working in the HR Software industry.  As we brainstormed about the sswcp, we traded some HR war stories, Laura recounted to me about a friend of hers who had taken on an HR position in an upstart company. Her post on that story is here. Laura said things were going well for her friend, (I’ll call her Ann) at the young company, Ann said that the Company was taking off, and was quite financially successful.  

Accordingly most everything Ann requested funding for was funded and implemented.  But like with any success story, things slowed down, the money slowed and the financial picture of the Company changed. And now – the Company was pulling the plug on programs and not nearly so committed to the strong employee engagement programs, or other employee focused initiatives. 

Laura asked me if I have I had ever experienced this phenomenon? This became a SAY WHAT moment for me.  The answer was yes – with about every slow down in business. 

Like many of my trench HR peers, I have lived through this numerous times, Even if your department is allocated certain funds for a period of time that can change in an instant! When the funding/sales/revenue slows, or goes away, business functions that do not directly enhance the bottom line (product or service), quickly loose their luster, to most CEOs and CFOs. While a seasoned HR pro may be able to salvage a program or two, they  must choose their battles wisely and hold on to the program or service that is certain to bring benefits to the organization. That has to be the last thing you won’t give up – because you know it is too valuable to loose and your Company’s image may be tarnished if you let it go. For me, this has always been safety training – you just can’t stop regardless of the cost! 

Meanwhile, it is only the true visionary leaders that manage to stick to their guns and not pull the plug on the people programs during downturns. So consider yourself one of the lucky ones if your CFO/CEO has gone through a downturn in revenue and did not take the meat ax to the HR budget or the people programs. They are the leaders who get it. 

Like it or not this is one of the realities of HR.  As an HR pro, if you wish to understand business you need to understand this – you don’t have to like it but you need to get it. I don’t have hard date but over the year I have learned 9 out 10 times, the money people are NOT going continue with the HR people programs in a downturn. It’s not personal it’s just business.