“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ”If you live each day as if your last, some day you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” Steve Jobs, 12 June 2005
Some organizations are clueless about how to develop a HR Philosophy. Others developed one, but depart from the spirit behind the Philosophy. It could be that a standard or yardstick is missing.
The HR Gold Standard
The HR Gold Standard defines the moral character of the organization. It should not be confused with corporate values, which has to do more with business principles. The Standard is from the heart and the other is from the mind. The HR Gold Standard can be best described as in 1 word: humanity. It is expressed outwardly as benevolence or compassion or consideration for others.
The Standard takes the moral perspective of the business owner. It is tightly wound with entrepreneur’s question to himself “What do I want with this life that I am given?” As a HR professional, we fulfill our duties to carry out the wishes of the business owner. A corporation or company is inanimate object even it is recognized as a separate legal entity. Thus, ultimately it is the people in authority that would have to exercise a sense of human decency over the choices place before them.
I could not think of a more powerful example of the Standard than the moving story from the movie Schindler’s List. The grave of Oskar Schindler, an ethnic German, can be found in Mount Zion Catholic Cemetery, Jerusalem, Israel.
The Evil That Men Do
In the early 1980s, as a young man I was newly hired as a credit control supervisor for a general courier service provider in Singapore. Today that firm has grew its business to include cash management, mail room management and mail distribution, records management and supply chain management. However, at that time, the business was in its early stage. It was having problem collecting money from its customers because simply because the customers’ accounts were in a mess. Three months into the job, my newly hired team and I were making significant progress in debt collection. Then suddenly I was fired from my job by the General Manager.
It was years later when I met my team member Mr Pang by chance. We were both waiting at the same bus stop. From him I found out the reason for my sudden departure. The firm started in 1978. The Chairman cum CEO had hired his friend as his General Manager to help push Sales. The General Manager bought in 1 or 2 more people as salesmen. Unknown to the CEO, his friend had set himself up as the firm’s competitor and was diverting money collected by the Salesmen into the General Manager’s business.
The CEO’s suspicion grew as I was not the first credit control supervisor that vacated the job. Unlike me, those before me, they were pressured to go. I made better progress in my job, so I was kicked out. He took the General Manager into question and finally the General Manager and his abetting salesmen were sacked when the truth unfolded.
Can you see what people will do for money and for themselves?
The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis
In 1997, Thailand was forced to adopt a floating exchange of the Baht and was subjected to attacks by rogue foreign speculators. As a result, Thailand had to devalue the Thai Baht by 20 percent. The index of Thailand’s stock market declines from 787 points in January 1997 to 337 points in December 1997. The crisis of slumping currencies then spread to other part of Asia (You can read about the crisis in The Economist 4 July 2007 article “Ten Years On”).
In that period 1997 to 1999, businesses in Singapore suffered the impact of economic recession. Some businesses failed and a lot of people lost their jobs. Where companies had jobs available, hiring managers gave priorities to those that were out of work and had dependents to support. These gestures of humanity were something rare to see in a full economy like today.
Think of Others
As business leaders, for every decisions and choices that we made, have we consider our employees that Life placed in our care?
The HR Gold Standard is my personal opinion.
Ten Years On
The Asian Economic Crisis: The Way Ahead For Singapore
Tan Kah Kee Foundation