Charlotte Mack King, Chief Human Resources Officer of Hope Hospice and Community Services, Inc. ("HOPE"), graciously agreed to answer a few questions for this blog. HOPE has managed to weather one of the worst economies in recent memory, in fact thriving despite dismal economic conditions in Southwest Florida. 

Charlotte, an MBA and SPHR, has an extensive HR background with 35 years of broad employer and consultative experience. In her role at HOPE, Charlotte directs all aspects of HOPE’s human resource operations, overseeing a team of HR Directors with a staff of 1,000+ throughout Florida. 

We wanted to get Charlotte’s view on various matters that are affecting HR today, along with her advice and insight on successful strategies.

"Recruit carefully; seek out those candidates who can bring good influences and/or practices to their job. The individual in the lead HR role must take the lead—remain positive, professional, and communicate routinely with the HR team," Charlotte says.

See more of her answers, after the jump.

Suzanne Boy: In these tough economic times what advice do you have for HR to energize the workforce, especially when many are being asked to take on more work for the same or even less pay?  

Charlotte King: We all recognize that our business climate has changed. We can either complain or jump in with both feet and make it work the best way possible for ourselves and our employers. Those that weather it and excel will be the individuals who find new ways to add value to their company. 

To coin an old phrase, "be the cheerleader!" Come to work with enthusiasm, a smile on your face, and remember what human resources is about: supporting, serving, and guiding people. Look for ways to contribute in a positive manner each and every day.   HR management must step up to the plate and support the HR team while quickly and appropriately solving workplace issues and challenges. 

Recruit carefully; seek out those candidates who can bring good influences and/or practices to their job. The individual in the lead HR role must take the lead—remain positive, professional, and communicate routinely with the HR team. When a staff member has done a great job, thank him or her! Make it sincere. 

Remember the basics:  always be professional, kind, and supportive.  Do as much as possible face-to-face; as nothing can take its place, especially when a special or certain message is to be relayed that affects others. And, very important: organize and prioritize! 

Suzanne Boy: HOPE appears to have weathered the down economy quite well. What HR-related strategies/systems do you think may have fostered this success? 

Charlotte King: At HOPE it is about WE, not I. We listen to the CEO carefully and ensure that the HR mission matches the goals of the business. We focus on outcomes. It is important to make smart business decisions on behalf of the HR function for the company.   At HOPE we have people in our care everyday and our efforts must remain focused on their needs.   To do this it is critical to communicate regularly with management and staff in order to limit errors, repetitiveness, staff frustration, and turnover, and to ultimately increase retention.

Hire strategically. Review overall needs of the departments with key personnel, limit who is authorized to approve positions, and use the HR team to effectively pre-screen. Conduct thorough background checks—it is worth the cost to hire quality personnel. When issues arise, address them immediately. Communicate in a positive, professional and respectful manner at all times. 

HR must focus on the basics—supporting and serving. Review the practices, processes and systems in place regularly. Tweak them constantly. Listen, respond, act in a timely manner. Recommend new practices or systems to limit errors while ensuring the integrity of the HR function. An investment in systems to support the HR side of the business may make a big difference for "the process of HR" so time can be spent where it is most valuable—with the people, helping them problem solve so they can concentrate fully on their job.

As a not-for-profit organization, HOPE has always worked diligently to ensure that everyone in the organization understands the meaning of being a good financial steward. The tough economy affects all organizations and HOPE is certainly not immune from it. Our CEO leads the way. She remains focused on our mission, reviews all options, and sets the course. She sets the example for accessibility, responsiveness, and expectations. As members of the senior team and as HR professionals, it is our responsibility to then do the same and follow the course—together.  

Conversely, Hope invests appropriately where necessary to ensure quality care and service.   It is equally important in these economic times to appropriately and proactively invest in our staff. Invest in training and developing people; there are numerous ways to do this effectively and economically. The intrinsic value of hiring well, quality treatment of staff, training appropriately, and supporting the people that work for your business can result in enthusiastic, dedicated workers. Increased retention equates to bottom-line savings. 

To summarize, it is important to find the right balance for your company between costs and staffing; too much or too little of one or the other can create a perceived unstable environment for staff.

Suzanne Boy: What qualities, credentials, etc. does it take, in your view, for the HR professional to merit a spot at the "Executive Table" of an organization?

Charlotte King: The ability to be a business partner—understanding and participating in HR recommendations, and supporting actions and decisions that affect the overall business. Embrace the politics of the industry and organization, be an excellent communicator on behalf of the CEO as it relates to HR, be a collaborative supporter of the CEO and senior team; bring challenges with solutions to the senior/executive table.

Suzanne Boy: HR professionals wear many hats. What do you think an organization should expect from HR with regard to employment law compliance, such as steering clear of discrimination, harassment, and pay-practice claims?

Charlotte King: HR has a key responsibility to educate, recommend, implement, and communicate what is necessary to meet HR law compliance. The CEO should never (and I mean never) be caught unaware, and any HR decision that may have a legal implication on the organization must be communicated in its entirety and accurately to need-to-know personnel. HR should provide all of the pros and cons of a potentially litigious situation so that the CEO can make a well educated decision. Finally, legal counsel must be consulted prior to making a decision that should have third party input. 

We offer our many thanks to Charlotte for agreeing to answer our questions, and wish her and the rest of the HOPE team continued success in their mission to provide excellence in comfort and care for the Southwest Florida community.