The Power of the Assist: How Do We Help When No One is Looking?

Not being much of a basketball fan, I admit I have not watched any of the current NBA Finals between Dallas and Miami.

The recap on ESPN during my workout is about it. When I grew up in the south it was always about football, never about basketball.

However, one of the things that has always caught my eye about sports was the amount of metrics that teams compile. While having team leaders with high metrics in each category never assures a winning team, I find it interesting how everything is tracked.

The power of the assist

From a Human Capital perspective, I find these metrics awesome. HR execs today are finding it near impossible to connect the dots across the organization, which in a lot of cases limits our ability as to where to start in making a difference in people’s performance.

In basketball, an assist is attributed to a player who passes the ball to a teammate in a way that leads to a score by field goal, meaning that he or she was “assisting” in the basket. This metric is also tracked in hockey.

Every day we are faced with an array of issues that are silently screaming out for help, whether it is a friend who is out of work, going through transition, or just totally lost due to the complexity of finding employment in a new era. More often than not, it is the job seeker who is reaching out to ask for the opportunity to work in your organization.

Our job descriptions call for certain areas of responsibilities that are fully documented. Theoretically this is the narrow sphere that we are to operate in. However since our domain is basically people, we are constantly dealing with areas that are out of our focus and that we could silently overlook. No one would know or probably care. No one is looking

How do we define character?

Character could be defined as what we do or who we are when we think that no one is watching! Would we react the same if someone was watching.

Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.”

Phillip Brooks

I was following a discussion article a while back concerning HR — specifically recruiters. Some of the stories that were posted by job seekers about the treatment that they received from the “Gatekeepers” of the organization were reprehensible.

You almost wanted to say that no one in our field would ever respond that way. But as I read through them, I realized that I had personally heard some of the same stories.

In a lot of cases, the initial connection with an organization will be through this most important function. This is why I have always felt that Talent Management starts with outreach. This sets the tone going forward.

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Did we pass this first test of interaction? This interaction begins to color candidates’ perception of the type organization that we are. Regardless of what we say on our website, regardless of what we say in our mission or value statement, this first contact is the first building block. Are we assisting them in a way that, if it does not work out, will leave them with a positive narrative to tell about our organization?

The assist leaders

I applaud the efforts of several folks in our industry that are doing great things to get our co-workers back to work.

Did they have to do this? Did they really have the time to get this started? Probably not, but that is what they did when no one was looking.

If we each had to compile a stat about our assist rate, what would it be? Not only that, but let’s also compile this rate based on what we did outside the confines of our job/job description.

Going forward

So as this recovery sputters along, it is up to all of us to reach out and give a hand. The best and most gratifying assist is when no one is looking.

Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, swearing to practice medicine ethically. HR does not have that threshold, but if we did, would we be carrying out that oath to uphold our profession?

What is your answer when no one is looking?

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


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