Reconnecting with the Impact of HR: A Refreshed Perspective

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By Ingrid Vaughan

Several years ago I worked as a career transition facilitator for a government-sponsored employment program. The people I worked with were, for a variety of reasons, unable to do what they had been doing and were undergoing a major career transition.

Most of the clients who walked through the door on the first day of the program were grieving, discouraged, defeated, frustrated, and hopeless. The greatest thing about that job for me was watching the transformation that occurred with a bit of support, guidance, tools, resources and a plan. Eighty per cent of those same clients left with their heads a little higher, a greater understanding of their own capacity to move forward, and a sense of hope for their future.

What Ever Happened to…?
As the coach/facilitator for the program, I connected with the majority of clients on some level. I could almost always find a connection in some area of life—even if the connection was simply sharing the fact that I too had been through a major career transition.

However, of the over 400 clients I worked with during that year, there were a handful of people with whom the connection went deeper. I’m not sure whether it was the way in which they approached the work, the level of openness and vulnerability they demonstrated in the process, or simply a personal synergy that is hard to quantify, but it was dynamic, emotional, and meaningful.

The nature of this kind of work is that you see people come and go, and rarely find out what happened in their lives after they left you. Over the years I have often wondered what happened to those dozen or so individuals with whom I connected so deeply.

Reconnection Awakens Perspective
Several weeks ago I attended a small business conference. While waiting for the afternoon keynote to begin, across the 400-seat lecture theatre I spied one of those individuals. It had been five years since he left my classroom and I had never seen him since.

After the keynote I made my way across the crowded theatre, wondering if he would even remember me. He was talking to someone else when I approached, so I stood behind him, waiting to catch his attention. When he turned and saw me, the biggest smile broke out on his face and he threw his arms around me and gave me a big hug. An observer may have thought he had met a long-lost friend!

The Impact of Acknowledgement
Over the next 10 minutes (and with great enthusiasm) he told me what a difference I had made in his life during that difficult transition period. He talked about what he learned from me, how he had taken that information and moved himself forward in his life and career, and how often he had taken the things I taught in the program and shared them with others in his life who were struggling with career transitions. He was happy and vibrantly engaged in his life and career, and thankful for the role I had played in getting him there. We exchanged contact information and agreed to meet for coffee to catch up.

While I had often thought about him and the others with whom I’d made that kind of connection over the years, I never imagined they had thought about me. I saw myself during that time as a bridge between the difficult place they found themselves in and the new lives they moved into, but I never realized the significance that bridge had in their lives. I was humbled by this perspective.

Taking the Longview on Day-to-Day
As HR professionals, we are in the people business. We work with employees and managers every day. Some we engage with fiercely; with some our connections are just in passing. My “reconnecting” experience taught me that we are connecting in every moment, and we have no idea what the impact of those connections are or will be in the future. As we listen, guide, console, advise, come alongside, nurture, grow, correct, encourage, affirm, develop—we are building present and future bridges alike. As we provide insight, clarity, support, and feedback, we are making an impact, whether we realize it or not.

This insight infuses the work we do with meaning beyond what we see in the day-to-day. On the days when you’re discouraged and wonder whether what you’re doing makes any difference to anyone, be assured that it does, even if you never find out how, or it takes years to see it.

Putting Fresh Perspective Into Play
This new perspective prompted me to think about the people who have made an impact in my life and who have never heard me acknowledge their contributions. Reaching back to these individuals, pays itself forward. As we tell others how much they mean to us, they are prompted to do the same.

Every time I think about that chance meeting it brings a smile to my face and reminds me of two things. One—the world is small, but how we touch each other’s lives is big. Two—life is too short not to value the contributions made, and let one another know.

Ingrid Vaughan is an experienced HR consultant on Vancouver Island, assisting individuals and organizations with creating positive change and supporting and equipping business owners and managers with skills and tools to help them manage their teams in a powerful, effective way. www.brioconsulting.ca

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