A 2020 Reflection on Life in the World of HR

A 2020 Reflection on Life in the World of HR

December 21, 2020 | Rob Catalano

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What was your experience in the world of HR in 2020?

A colleague recently asked me to share one word to describe 2020 for me personally… and “lucky” came to mind.  

I didn’t blurt it out though.  I continued to quickly think of other words… and a wave of negative descriptors, feelings, humorous analogies (i.e. “dumpster fire”), and sad thoughts flooded my mind.  But in the end, I blurted out “lucky” – which was returned by a blank stare. 

I continued to explain that when I thought about both my personal 2020 and my WorkTango 2020, I had little to complain about.  My close family and friends are healthy and WorkTango managed to double headcount and revenue in a challenging year for many businesses.  In fact, I was quite privileged to be in an industry already set up for remote work– an industry that happens to help other companies measure and support employee engagement and navigate people challenges brought on by COVID and the racial injustices that plague our world. 

I should have said “privileged.” 

No doubt, though, this was a challenging year for many.  I think everyone in some capacity had a challenging year… and unfortunately, some downright disastrous from a personal well-being perspective. I saw it in our community, with our own employees, and even personally. At WorkTango, there was a six-week lull starting in March when several of our prospects and customers were rightly focused on navigating the pandemic and our business seemingly came to a screeching halt. Terrifying as a business owner.  

But I love how our leadership team responded. People first.


HR’s Key Mindset: People First

Our organizations are made up of something way more important: people. And when I think about what 2020 did to the personal well-being of many people, it’s scary. It isn’t just mental wellness that is being affected, the happenings of 2020 brought on additional challenges physically, financially, socially… and for many, all at once.  What people fail to remember at times is that employees are humans (they were humans WAY before they were employees, btw) and without them – there is no organization.  

At WorkTango, our Passion statement is to “improve (work) lives”. And it was the passion that kept us going when at times it seemed the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t success–it was an oncoming train.  And it’s not only about having a passion for our own people, but for the people within our broader community. 

As I continue to reflect on 2020 from a “work” perspective, what I’m most proud of is the ability of our HR community, our leadership community, and our WorkTango employees and customers to navigate through all the uncertainty and challenges that 2020 threw our way.  I’m so impressed with how everyone forged ahead to find innovative ways forward. 

And the reality is, we will continue to move forward. My thesis topic back in school was “The Tenacity of the Individual in the Face of Adversity” –it has always amazed me how people can endure terrible suffering and continue to just  “move forward.”  


You can’t Spell Hero Without HR

Talk about tenacity. 

I believe that it’s the function of all leaders within an organization to build an experience where employees can thrive. It was challenging to do that in 2020 during a pandemic… while shifting to (and working and living) in a remote work environment… while navigating the racial injustices that were amplified this year…while handling political turmoil…while handling significant organizational change… all while keeping it together personally.  

In many organizations, however, this focus on people lands directly on the HR function.  Many HR leaders  had to navigate uncharted waters, do more with less, and painstakingly make change that impacted employees. 

And the job isn’t close to done. We’re not out of the pandemic. There are still the aftereffects of organizational change.  Personal well-being for ourselves and our employees still requires attention. 


The Product of HR Reflection Is Improvement

 I have learned a lot from my personal experiences in 2020 but have learned more from the HR community.  Inspired by all of you, I kept reminding myself this year: 

  1. You have allies. Many people are in the same situation you are in. You can reach out for help and people ARE willing to support you. But also respond to those that need support. I’ve taken so much joy in trying to help people in my network find jobs or navigate through tough times.
  2. We can do it. Many organizations had two-year-long remote work plans that had to come together in less than two weeks. What was thought to be impossible managed to happen and organizations moved on. We should have confidence that we can make change in our organizations despite the situation.
  3. Start with Purpose and Passion. Everything will follow. With WorkTango, at the height of the pandemic, we focused on our Passion to improve (work) lives first. We didn’t get rid of staff. We turned salespeople into educators for our community. We offered our platform free for non-profits and healthcare organizations to understand sentiment around the changes sparked by COVID. We invested more in Health & Wellness and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to support our customers. With the north-star of our Passion Statement to guide us, we still had a growth year… and if we never waver from it, we can get through anything.
  4. Our duty extends beyond our organization.  With the amplified social injustices this past year, we have a duty to support the fight against racism in all forms. Our goals as business leaders, HR leaders, or any leader is to create this experience for employees where they can be 1000% them. We need to support employees in ways we never have before; after all, 2020 is unlike any year we’ve had before. 


We In The HR World Have A Lot To Be Thankful For

 A lot of the reflection above comes from the community I have the pleasure of surrounding myself with.  I am super grateful for: 

  • My family & friends – for supporting me personally and the WorkTango journey when success looked bleak.    
  • My WorkTango team – you changed your roles every day to support customers needing our platform and support. You educated and supported the community to help navigate through change. You lived all our values.  
  • Our customers – for inspiring us to be better and being patient with our deliverables as we navigated uncharted waters 
  • The HR Community at large – for showing that anything is possible. There was a lot of heavy lifting in 2020 and it was the consistent support that personally kept me going.  

 2020 will be gone shortly, but through the aftermath of it all, there’s still much more work to be done.  I feel inspired to make change and I feel privileged to be surrounded by my communities to help make it possible. 

Cheers to a better 2021. Keep inspiring. 

 Rob Catalano, WorkTango

Rob Catalano

Rob Catalano

Rob Catalano is WorkTango’s Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer. Rob has spent the last 17 years building HR Technology companies.