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Virtual CHRO: How to Tell if a Company Has Soul

Virtual CHRO: How to Tell if a Company Has Soul

So you joined the leadership ranks to make a difference. You wanted to be a part of something bigger than yourself. You wanted to help finding a good place to workpeople grow, develop and succeed. The question is what if the company you joined, or soon will join, doesn’t align with that overall goal you set for yourself? Worse, what if the company you are about to work for has no soul and threatens to drain you of yours?

Right about now, some of you are thinking about launching into some debate on whether or not companies are living beings with a soul.  But pause and consider this for a moment.

In my twenty plus years of HR experience I’ve worked in numerous companies. I’ve worked in different industries and leaders at all levels.  Most of those companies provided great experiences and support as I advanced in my career.  Some of those companies had soul, while others struggled with the concept.

Here is what I learned along the way about reading a company’s soul:

A company’s soul is hard to measure.  One of today’s business mantras is, “if its not measure it doesn't get managed.” There is the extreme push to perform and demonstrate performance through measures.  The intent here is not to discount the need to measure performance by any stretch of the imagination. Let's face it, it is hard to measure enthusiasm, higher calling (sense of purpose), and making the world a better place, thus soul. But because it is difficult to measure doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or should be overlooked or worse sold.

If a company has a soul its impact can be felt.  When you walk in the doors of an organization, have you ever felt a strong sense that they exist not just to make bottom line profits but to also make the world a better place?  Perhaps there is a higher calling they are fulfilling or creating.  A company with soul makes it about the experience both for employees and customers.  That fact is what sets them apart from others.  If you are a prospective job candidate for a company and felt that there is something just not right about it or the job. Trust your instincts.

A company with soul has loyal customers and employees.  In point number two above a company with soul makes it about the experience for both customers and employees.  A good experience is what draws and keeps people coming back for more.  Think about your experiences in a restaurant or retail establishment. Those companies with no soul also have disengaged employees who are only there for the paycheck and you can feel it as a customer walking in the door.

A company’s soul can be sold or lost.  Enron is one of many examples of how a company can lose its soul. When money and power gets in the way of soul, failure is a certain outcome. The tragedy of this outcome is the employees who lost retirement accounts and jobs. Even a company that starts out with a great attitude and spirit can lose that momentum. It is really hard to gain back that momentum without drastic changes, such as leadership upheaval, taking place.

Leadership asks you to Challenge Their Thinking. The phenomenon of groupthink can be as dangerous as quick sand. When all leadership thinks alike and begins to exhibit poor judgment as a group a company runs very close to losing its soul if its not lost already. A sign that a company is developing soul is when the leadership, especially the CEO, encourages people sincerely challenge their thinking. In addition, a company with soul is not afraid to take tough stands simply because its the right thing to do!

How can HR leadership influence a company to develop a soul?

First, answer this question where is your soul? As you advance in the HR profession the world that surrounds you becomes grayer. You will undoubtedly face ethical dilemmas that case studies could be based on. You will be pressured to overlook the need to protect the soul. Know in advance where your line is and where you will go or walk away from.  Don't get so caught up in the machine that you forget to have heart.

Foster personal growth for all those around you.  Staying in a silo helps no one. HR has the ability to cross all functional boundaries like no other function. Yet HR in many companies (those with no soul) pressure HR to fit into some preconceived box. Leverage the ability to inspire people, reach out to different functions, and help them to develop soul.  What is it about your company that will make the world a better place? Be contagious and share that excitement and vision with others.

Hire for soul. Hire people who have a passion to giving an extraordinary experience like none other. This is where HR can drive a competitive advantage for an organization. It is not just about processing applications but about finding and hiring those who will completely astound your customers and having them coming back for more.

Remember the higher calling.  With the constant pressure to perform, manage, control or direct it is easy to forget the higher calling. Why did you join the HR, or any profession, to begin with? If you are feeling overwhelmed pause and remember. Take time off and go to your place of peace. Find that “fire in the belly” again. If you can't find it, it is time to reinvent yourself or go somewhere else.

Use these tips to find a company with a soul and enjoy the ride! You will truly know what it means to be a part of something bigger than yourself and make a difference in the world, as we know it.


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Tresha D. Moreland, MBA, MS, FACHE, SPHR, SSBBP, founder of HR C-Suite, is an HR thought leader in Human Resource Strategic Management. She has held key human resource leadership roles for over 20 years in multiple industries most recently a senior vice president in the healthcare industry. Tresha is the founder and publisher of HR C-Suite ( HR C-Suite is a game changer results-based HR strategy website. It is a first-of-it's-kind site that organizes HR strategy based on desired business result. She has developed a business philosophy of integrating human resources with business strategy, thus creating a hybrid HR leadership approach. This approach enables the leveraging human resources to achieve business results.


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