What HR can learn from the Trump speech saga

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Few HR professionals will have thought they’d ever learn something from Donald Trump but it seems the billionaire’s recent response to the plagiarised speech scandal could actually teach us a thing or two.

Californian native Meredith McIver took full responsibility for the political gaffe – which saw Melania Trump replicate significant sections of Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech.

“In working with Melania Trump on her recent First Lady speech, we discussed many people who inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people,” explained McIver.

“Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later include some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech.”

McIver, a self-described “admirer of the Trump family” offered to resign immediately but Trump rejected her proposal, apparently telling her: “people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from these experiences.”

It’s a sentiment that scores of top business leaders and HR professionals live by – noting that being too hard on employees when they make mistakes will only stifle creativity and confidence.

“When employees are afraid of repercussions from mistakes, they become paralysed — and when they become paralysed, it stunts growth for both the employee and the company,” said Joe Schumacher, CEO of Goddard Systems, in a 2015 interview with Business Insider.

“A mistake is still a mistake and should be avoided when possible,” he added. “But I aim to create a culture and a work environment where employees are empowered to make educated decisions in their roles,” he continued.

“The real point is that I would rather have an employee use good judgment and ultimately screw up than to do nothing for fear of making a mistake. This is conducive to both the employee’s growth and the growth of the company.”

Dominque Jones is the chief people officer at Halogen Software – she told HRM that forgiving mistakes was an important part of the company’s award-winning culture.

“We describe our culture in behavioural terms so for example we say that our culture is supportive of mistakes but not a pattern of mistakes,” she stressed.

“People need to feel free to experiment and if it goes wrong, it goes wrong but we want you to learn from that and we don’t want you to make the same mistake 17 times.”
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