'It Depends': The HR phrase taking organizations by storm

by Emily Douglas30 Apr 2018

If you’ve been working in HR for a number of years, chances are you’ll have heard the phrase ‘It Depends’. Angela Champ sure has – and she’s determined you do too.

Her recent book, ‘It Depends: Employee Relations Case Studies for Human Resources Professionals and Students’, takes HR leaders through a myriad of case studies, looking at how different perspectives and small factual changes can influence the outcome of any given HR dilemma.

“The phrase ‘It Depends’ is a common expression and a bit of a joke within HR circles,” she told HRD Canada.

“Whenever someone comes forward with a problem that needs resolving, the answer is almost always ‘It Depends’.  A problem that might seem identical to another will always have defining factors which alter how HR should approach the issue.”

Champ explained how a frequent training experience with her former HR collective inspired her to write the book, adding that her desire to improve employee relations slowly expanded into an online forum.

“With my former HR team, we would look at ways to elevate our skills in a myriad of different areas,” she continued.

“When it came to employee relations, I would periodically email a scenario to the team and then would my members to post their answers on a share-point pad as a way of analyzing and elevating how they dealt with potential problems.”

This also served as a way to mentor and guide the more junior members, Champ told us. In fact, it was so successful that she decided to put together an entire book of case studies and release it more broadly to the HR audience at large.

And whilst the book can serve as a direct point of reference, Champ meant for it to be used across any jurisdiction, in any country, all over the world.

She went on to regale us with one of her favorite examples in the book – one which evokes an ethical dilemma.

“A fellow who works as an assistant manager at a grocery store, takes the discounted food from the garbage and donates it to a homeless shelter – he’s then fired for theft.

“From a reader’s perspective, you’d think the employee was doing something moral – donating food to the needy – and yet from the organization’s standpoint it may constitute as theft. It’s quite complex and gives rise to ethical questions that Human Resources professionals have to deal with every day.”

It’s this sort of out-of-the-box thinking that has garnered such a positive reaction from the HR community, making major players sit up and take notice.

“I’ve had very positive reactions,” continued Champ. “One of the People teams at WestJet bought a copy for their entire HR team; they’ve sat together and had discussions on the case studies in a book club format during their face-to-face meeting.”

It Depends: Employee Relations Case Studies for Human Resources Professionals and Students has the propensity to generate philosophical debates, highlight gaps in knowledge and really propel the desire to learn and engage as HR leaders.

People management can be a complex and nuanced sector, Champ reminded us. And that’s essentially what the book caters to; removing the archaic constraints that limit HR’s outreach and allowing the knowledge to speak for itself.

“Reading through these case studies really can give HR professionals, line managers and executives a sense of the rich complexity involved when dealing with human beings.”

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