Firstly, let’s get something straight, I have no doubt that you HR people appreciate the beach as much as anyone else. You understand the need for everyone to have a well-earned break, and you are glad to get away from things yourself, but the summer “pause” button often seems to frustrate you more than the other functions.
Put simply, when dealing with people, it is impossible to hit the “off” switch. Business may slow down, but the people challenges continue unabated. You might have been working hard to embed a new development program that is beginning to bear fruit, but somehow progress grinds to a halt as the business stakeholders turn their attention to their holidays. Will the business see it as a priority in September once things get going again? You might be halfway through a recruitment drive, but with the inevitable delayed interviews with the senior team, you often lose out as the talent goes to a more proactive rival. When entire levels of management are absent, performance issues are brushed under the carpet, and by September the alarm bells will be at full volume.
When you put people issues to one side for a quarter of every year, you are creating a situation in which risks can become threats. Yet, somehow companies are happy to allow a few things to fall off the table – HR will pick up the pieces, won’t they? They always do.
Luckily, picking up the pieces is what HR does best. It is unrealistic to seek to change the cyclical nature of the summer break, so the best HR teams seek to put contingency plans in place before the holiday season. They won’t start a recruitment process that can’t be seen through to a swift conclusion. They won’t leave a project “frozen” while participants take their turn to jet off to warmer climes – better to start it in September than expect any progress over the summer. They certainly won’t let apathy take hold – if people start to slack because their managers are away, they can be assured that it will be noticed.
HR is sometimes viewed as the deep-thinker of the corporate team, and summer provides the perfect breathing space for reflection, but it is only when you slow down that you realise how fast you were running. HR is used to spinning huge amounts of plates, and it is not surprising that the summer lull can be somewhat frustrating.
However, to end on a positive note, as many of you think back on your recent holidays, I am certain that in those moments of peace you will have come up with a few new ideas for how you want to do things. That will doubtless be the same from your colleagues in other functions. The summer may have been quiet from a progress point of view, but come September there will be a flood of energy and ideas in the office. Capture that energy, channel it in the right direction, and you will be speeding off into the future again.
Summer is over, but after every lull, there is a boom.