Nurturing HR (Helping Relationships) Within Organisations

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Yes! You read the subject line correctly. HR as a subject has been evolved over decades and has undergone many transformations including its lingua franca.

With my experience with working in large teams and creating high performance workforce what has stuck to me is the root of HR i.e. development of resources besides other areas.

I define HR as “Helping Relationships.” If we are truly a Strategic Business Partner to the business then you would be appreciate how the soft as well as hard part of our role could be delivered with a Helping Relationship approach.

Let me ask you a simple question and honestly reflect and answer the below:

  • Where do your employees turn to when they need help?
  • What are their most preferred sources of help?
  • What can be done to help your employees?

Most of the time people don’t turn up to HR and will turn up to their immediate supervisor / boss / colleagues. The help I am referring to could be personal as well as professional help. You can do a quick survey within your HR teams or in your organization to figure out the answer and whether it matches your hypothesis.

So, my point is what employees of today need is a Helping Organization and the definition of Helping Organization to me is:

  • An Organization that is willing, capable of helping its employees cope with their life challenges and fully utilize their talents and achieve their full potential.
  • An Organization that will be sensitive to the various contexts in which its employees live and work
  • An Organization that would invest in enhancing psychological literacy of Leaders and Managers to help them remain mindful about the rational, emotional health and well-being needs of their employees.
  • An Organization that would help employees take responsibility so they can help themselves and become self-sufficient.

Such a Helping Organization will resemble a large tree with many branches, each serving as a distinct source of help and all of them collectively representing a helping culture.

Some of you may be interested to know is there a Business case to what I am indicating. Well, you asked and here is the business case in short:

  • The most critical workforce segment in any organization are those between the ages of 25 and 45
  • Top talent falls in this group
  • They are under most distress
  • Retention and engagement in this group is a big challenge
  • Helping them makes business sense

So, the next obvious question is how can this be done?

While there are many methods and approaches to this let me share what I have personally used and my reflections on the same.

In every organization, people talk about culture of participation and “team work”. Many organizations are actually experimenting with “self-directed work teams”. Success or failure with team work depends in large part on the level of commitment to real participation and the processes and tools to make it happen.

According to International Association of Facilitators [IAF]; facilitation is the art and science of helping groups to be more effective in their decision-making. The tools and processes applied in facilitation encourage groups to use their diverse backgrounds, values, interests and capabilities to make higher quality decisions, increase their productivity, and improve their groups’ dynamics.

You may be wondering why Facilitation skills and why not Coaching / Mentoring?

The role of the HR / L&OD leader has undergone a tremendous change in the last few years. On one hand is the growing importance of understanding business and being aligned with it. On the other is the increasing importance of being the driver of Culture and a person who enables common thinking and commitment / ownership across the organization especially when changes happen.

To do this, the HR / L&OD person needs to be able to influence managers across levels in the organization and be able to intervene appropriately in various situations to enable shared commitment and alignment to a common goal / purpose. The outcome of doing this is high performance of the organization and enhanced engagement of people.

The skill to be able to get collective engagement and alignment is what Facilitation is all about. Being facilitative is a different way of interacting with co-workers and viewing a task. According to Webster’s dictionary, “Facilitate”, from the root word “facile”, is to “make easy or easier”. It means functioning with a mindset of serving others, allowing the group and the situation to “be in control”. As an HR / L&OD leader, this emphasis on people skills is powerful. Instead of having to “know”, you need to build the capacity for more people to “be in the know”

Facilitation skills are critical for successfully solving the people as well as business issues. The impact of effective facilitation on resolution of complex people & Business related issues is immense. Hence, as a part of preparing for future, HR / L&OD has to develop these skills for effective implementation of people processes across the company.

Facilitation is fast becoming a core competency for anyone who leads a team, manages a project, heads up a committee or manages a department. To get the most from people today, leaders have to know how to create buy-in, generate participation and empower people. To keep pace, today’s leaders need to be coaches, mentors and teachers. At the core of each of these new roles is the skill of facilitation.

In short, facilitation enhances the interactions between individuals and groups in order to focus on results.

The Applications where Facilitation can be leveraged to deliver outcomes:

The importance of professional facilitation is felt in multiple applications like Strategy sessions, Employee Engagement Action Planning Sessions, Performance Management Workshops, Small Group departmental Meetings, Creativity, Problem Solving, Inductions, Open house, Brainstorming, Review meetings, Conflict Management, decision making, process improvements, Ideation / Innovation, Managing Union Negotiations, Trainings, Discussions.

When Facilitative Trainers apply these skills in Instruction Led Training (ILD) environments, learners are made to ‘think, feel, do’ -not just because the Facilitator thinks so, but because it is important to them. Thus it leads to better understanding of the subject, healthy discussions, detailed analysis, buy-ins and much-needed retention and application of the learning. It also leads to trust & collaboration in teams

It’s been more than six years now and we have been effectively using the Facilitation process such as Textra, Brainstorming, Improv, World Café, Visual facilitation, Gallery walk, Snow ball, Flip Flop, OST, 35, Needs and Offer, Cross Road, Ambassadorial Sharing, Helicopter Diagnostics, Paired listening, Symbolic Charade, Frame game at our organization in the areas of Induction, Employee Engagement action planning, HR Connect sessions, Brainstorming sessions, Strategy formulation process, Team Building, Open house.

We have won several external recognitions in the areas of Culture, Change Management, Performance Management, Talent Development and best practices in the HR processes and policies consecutively by D&B by using the Facilitation skills.


Author-Shyam Iyer is Senior HR practitioner with 19 years of experience. After a long professional career with Tata Group, that spanned 12+ years in leading and heading HR function at Tata International, Tata Power and Tata Power SED, Shyam is currently running a truly professional company. His firm is called “60 Bits Consulting” based out of Mumbai which is focused on HR & OD, Organizational Improve, Facilitation, Coaching, Thinking [Deep Mind] and Education. Shyam is an avid blogger and his few sundry thoughts get aggregated at www.shyamviyer.co.in

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