What the 2016 Election Means for HR

June 5, 2016

 

A lot has been said about the implications of the election on a number of different groups, notably business. With the approach of Independence Day it's likely that many of the people of this country will be thinking about our relationship to government, and to each other. This political campaign has caused a lot of emotions and provoked many reactions, but have we given much thought to what we as HR professionals will be dealing with both during and after the big choice?

 

1. The Heat in the Kitchen

It's pretty common to see co-workers engaging in discussions on current events over their lunches or on breaks. Who would want to work in a place where they didn't get to connect with their peers on something other than work? Politics sometimes comes into these conversations, and as HR practitioners we're often put in the spot of helping resolve hurt feelings between two people who took a conversation too far. The tenor of the discourse on this year's election demonstrates that this job is only going to get harder. We have to be willing to help people strike the appropriate balance between open dialogue and attacks. Make sure your workplace conduct policy includes a statement on politeness and courtesy so you can reflect back on it when asking folks to keep it civil.

 

2. Diversity Training is Not Dead

For those of us who have been delivering and reinforcing diversity training for many years, it may sometimes feel like we've done as much as we can to ensure inclusive workplaces, and it's up to the students to take the lesson into the field and apply it. I think we can agree, however, after seeing the rhetoric on the campaign trail, as well as the reaction to it, that inclusiveness does not mean the same thing to everyone. We have to take the job a step further. Make sure senior leaders are living diversity, and find ways to celebrate and encourage inclusion. Use your seat at the table to ensure that the company actually is diverse, and bring plenty of data to back up your assertions. It's not enough to talk about diversity if your company is essentially homogenous. And if your diversity training was a one-time affair, get ready to fire it up again.

 

3. Keep Everyone Calm

Business leaders are looking around frantically trying to predict how the outcome of the election will affect their companies, and because the conversation is so erratic and polarized it's hard to make any kind of predictions. Predictions are important for business, because the CEO that anticipates and makes the company nimble comes out in front of the competitor. As HR, we need to be ready for anything, too. We need to know the data behind our workforce inside and out, and be able to talk about it as a subject matter expert as soon as called upon to do so. We need to study recent trends in the workforce and upcoming problems or opportunities so that when our C-suite asks us what to be watching for on the horizon, we'll be ready to answer.

 

4. Start Reading the Financial Papers

There have been a lot of discussions going around that an economic downturn is around the corner. There isn't a lot of agreement on who it will affect or how bad it will be, but there are plenty of opinions to read about out there. These are the same opinions your bosses are reading, so be a part of the conversation. Familiarize yourself with the rumors going around about what the future holds for the American economy, and view it through the HR lens. If scenario A happens, what will that mean for the business, and for your workforce? What about scenario B? Not only will this reinforce the value of your proverbial seat at the table, but you will be a key player when it's time for the company to respond to what actually does happen.

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