Editor’s note: We never stop thinking about HR, even when we’re watching movies or reading novels. We just can’t help wondering about what HR and compliance challenges people and organizations face, whether they’re real or fictional. It was the same when we recently watched Denis Villeneuve’s blockbuster Dune. What would it be like to receive an HR question from House Atreides? Grab your Dune-themed Halloween costume, follow us to the year 10,191 AG, and let’s find out!
Got a bit of a perfect HR sandstorm over here and could use some advice. The executive leadership team just announced that the company will be relocating to Arrakis.
On the surface, the move sounds like a great opportunity for our family-owned business to get a leg up on the competition, but our employees are not so sure. The new location is oppressively hot, arid, and sandy. It’s also home to gargantuan worksite-attacking sandworms and, worse, intimidating compliance requirements. I have a nagging suspicion that we’re not set up for success.
No one wants to speak out against the move, however, because our Chief Culture Officer is a witch who can read minds and compel obedience with her voice. When she was first hired, she insisted one making one of our core values “I must not fear.” Not someone you want to seem timid around.
Anyway, I’ve never seen morale so low. Any recommendations you have would be appreciated.
This certainly sounds like a delicate situation, full of pitfalls, sandworm-caused and otherwise.
Let’s start with your worries about the Chief Culture Officer (CCO). She is absolutely right that fear can be detrimental to an organization. Fear is the morale-killer. But it doesn’t sound like fear is necessarily the issue with your employees. Assessing the risk of a major organizational change is a good business practice, born of prudence, not fear. It should be encouraged!
If feasible, I would sit down with the CCO and the rest of the executive team, not necessarily to change their minds about the move, but to brainstorm ways to solicit employee feedback about this important change. Your employees really are in the best position to help you find ways to make the relocation smooth and advantageous.
It may also be worth reminding everyone at this meeting that your company core value of “I must not fear” applies to how your leadership relates to employees. Yes, employees have a cost, and they can be liabilities. Conceivably, an employee could even betray your company to your chief competitor, initiating the downfall of all you hold dear. But it doesn’t do your leadership any good to dwell on the damage your employees could cause. That mindset leads, little by little, to total obliteration.
Moving on to the sandworm situation, I would stress to your employees that you take their safety very seriously and will do everything you can to protect them from harm. Tell them you won’t wait until the last second to evacuate them from an impending worm attack. You’ll get them out at the first sign of trouble and have backup evacuation plans on the small chance that rescue equipment fails.
As for your new compliance obligations on Arrakis, there are quite a few of them, but you’ll get through them. Pay special attention to the planet’s unique requirements for employee training, which cover special uniforms, heat safety standards, water rationing, sand walking techniques, and worm riding. You’ll also want to give some thought to your drug policy given that recreational melange is legal and in frequent use on the planet. Truth be told, there’s really no way to avoid it, and you don’t want to put yourself in the position of having to fire your top talent once their eyes inevitably turn blue.
Finally, if the relocation doesn’t prove as lucrative as you’d all like, you might consider a merger with an aggressive up-and-coming local company that is familiar with local practices. Mergers can be great way to get an edge on the competition or adapt to a new market.
Hope this helps and that this move to Dune works out for you. Look forward to hearing Part 2 of your story!
Image: Warner Bros.