What are the nine words that HR directors dread most? “I know you’re someone who likes a new challenge”.
So any HR professional can imagine how my heart sank when I was summoned before the chief executive to be told those very words.
He said: “The challenge is to get the absenteeism figures down. They show our key indicators are heading north, which could mean some careers are heading south, if you get my drift.”
The CEO continued: “We’re above trend in absences on back pain, stress, stomach upset, bowel disorders, headache, and the Ebola virus.”
“There was only one of those,” I said. “And he’s dead, so it’s unlikely to re-occur.”
“Indeed, HR, there’s always a plus. And here’s my new challenge for you.
“I want you to chair a committee to look at how we can improve our canteen food. We are what we eat, or so those TV shows tell us.
“That makes some of our staff at least 50% rendered turkey. And that’s got to change.
“Your mission is to make our food healthier and more nutritious, then absence will fall. It stands to reason. I want my staff to eat real chicken nuggets, not ones puffed up with water, E- numbers and crushed beaks.”
“Does this mean,” I asked, “that the downward-revised target figures for absenteeism will be on hold until I, or rather we, get to grips with the better grub issue”?
“Well, HR, I suppose it does.”
In which case, this project will run into next year.