“Wheels down” by Katherine Watkins
25th January 2024
In the world of business, there are a few things that are as essential as a good HR Director. Much like the Royal Air Force (RAF) needs a competent pilot to keep their aircraft soaring through the skies, businesses need a HR Director to navigate the sometimes-turbulent skies of office politics and employee relations. To illustrate this point, let me regale you with a tale of how the RAF, much like your average workplace, found itself in desperate need of HR guidance.
Once upon a time in a remote RAF base in the rolling hills of England, Squadron Leader Cameron was in command of a group of hotshot fighter pilots. These pilots were renowned for their precision in the air but were equally notorious for their lack of diplomacy on the ground. With egos as big as their afterburners, it wasn't long before the base resembled a war zone, albeit without the explosions. It was clear that the RAF needed a HR Director and they needed one fast. The plan had 5 simple steps to it….
1. Conflict Resolution: The Great Canteen Brawl. It all started one sunny morning in the base canteen when Flying Officer Biden accused Flight Lieutenant Trump of stealing his last piece of bacon. What followed can only be described as the "Great Canteen Brawl." Chairs were thrown, scrambled eggs became ammunition and even the teapots were not spared. An HR Director could have defused the situation with some conflict resolution skills, maybe a bacon-sharing workshop!
2. Equal Opportunities: The Perils of Squadron Assignments. Squadron Leader Cameron had an unfortunate habit of assigning all the glamorous missions to his favourite pilots, the "Top Guns," if you will. This led to an ongoing battle for supremacy within the squadron and resentment grew like mold in a damp locker room. An HR Director would have ensured that opportunities were distributed more equitably, making sure everyone had their chance to shine, even if it was just in the mess hall.
3. Communication Breakdown: The Code of Silence. Pilots had developed their own secret language filled with aviation jargon and obscure acronyms, making it impossible for non-pilots to understand them. This communication breakdown extended beyond the cockpit, making it difficult for the ground crew, administrators and even the cook to understand the pilots' needs. The HR Director could have implemented clear and concise communication strategies, possibly even a "Speak English to Humans" programme.
4. Employee Benefits: The Scarcity of Parachutes. The budget constraints in the RAF had led to a shortage of parachutes and the pilots were not pleased. They argued that parachutes were essential for their job, even though they rarely used them. The HR Director could have negotiated a more comprehensive benefits package, including upgraded ejection seats or even a "Golden Parachute" retirement plan.
5. Diversity and Inclusion: The Lack of Female Pilots. The RAF had never welcomed female pilots into their ranks, and it was high time they joined the 20th century. An HR Director could have championed diversity and inclusion, bringing in a new perspective and maybe even a much-needed touch of decorum.
In the end, the RAF realised the error of their ways and hired an HR Director to bring some much-needed order to their chaotic world. Much like the skilled pilot who ensures a safe landing, the HR Director guided the RAF through the turbulence of office politics and employee relations, making it a more harmonious and efficient organisation.
So, as you can see, an HR Director is as essential to a business as a pilot is to the Royal Air Force. Whether you are a business of 10, 20 or 30,000 employees, without one, you might find yourself in the middle of a bacon brawl or an incomprehensible conversation about jet propulsion.
Around your war room table, you are likely to have a CEO, a COO, a head of Operations and a Finance Director. What’s missing? An HR Director. It’s not an extra expense, it’s a necessity - regardless of your size. You may allot HR duties to others in the company thinking they are small scale but do that at your peril.
Let's all take a moment to appreciate the unsung heroes who keep our workplaces from turning into war zones and, for the love of all that's airborne, wheels down, hire your HR Director and be a Top Gun not a Top Flop!
How often do you say to those around your Exec table ‘we’re alright we don’t need an HR person as we don’t really have too many HR issues.’ It’s a common misbelief. As soon as you hire more than one person you encroach into the world of HR and for that you’ll benefit from having a HR person at your side. My latest article looks at why every business needs an HR director like the RAF needs Pilots: "A Tale of RAF Shenanigans". If this resonates with you, get in touch and let me show you the value my profession will bring your business.
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