THE ULTIMATE BLOG ON ALL THINGS HR
& THEN SOME
& THEN SOME
As harvest seasons come to a close, this topic popped into my head. I come from a long line of farmers on both sides of my family. I am proud to say this. Recently I was driving a back highway in the countryside of Western Iowa. (I relocated to Iowa from Texas at the beginning of September.) When I describe Iowa to my friends in Texas, I tell them, “Iowa has lots of corn.” Now that I live here, I have discovered that statement is an understatement. And I’m quite proud of this as well.
Something else Iowa has is hills. Many people have a misperception of Iowa as being flat—that’s Nebraska. So imagine planting rows and rows and rows of corn on hillside after hillside after hillside. Now imagine driving a tractor or a combine on these same rolling hills. Then it hits me—this landscape is reminiscent of Northern Denmark!
When I visited Danish family members in Denmark this past spring, I saw canola fields for the first time. Bright, bright yellow flowering plants that reminded me of the mustard plants in West Germany when I was a kid. This spring I visited Kongenshus Mindepark in Denmark where the heath remains natural and untouched. Memorial stones are placed for farmers who “broke the heath” and made the land fertile and farmable. Breaking the heath is done through backbreaking, hard manual labor. It also takes determination. My great-great grandfather, Anders Poulsen Andersen, is one such farmer.
So as I was driving the hills between Avoca and Oakland, Iowa, several words came to mind: Perseverance. Hope. Disappointment. Gratitude. Fortitude. I realized the magnitude of the commitment it took for my ancestor to break the heath in northern Denmark at the turn of the century. This heath is un-level ground full of stones big and small. This land is often unfertile at best. But he did not rest until his land was fertile and flat enough to plant crops. To appreciate this feat, you have to visualize what this land was before it became a farm. If you have ever seen Wuthering Heights, you understand. The heath in Denmark is much like the moors of Scotland & England. The words above are indicative of life as a farmer.
Perseverance. According to Merriam-Webster, perseverance is defined as, “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition” or “to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement.” A synonym is steadfastness.
Hope. Merriam-Webster defines it as “to cherish a desire with anticipation and expectation of fulfillment; trust” with an antonym as “doubt”.
Disappointment. To disappoint is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “to fail to meet the expectation or hope of; to fail or let down.”
Gratitude. “The state of being grateful or thankfulness” is how Merriam-Webster defines gratitude. Grateful is defined at appreciative of benefits received.
Fortitude. I think how Merriam-Webster defines fortitude is my favorite: “strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage.” There’s a certain quiet power in this. And the synonyms say it all, “backbone, constancy, grit, guts.”
These words describe a farmer, any farmer. But I began to ponder how these words relate to employees. I am reminded not all employees are alike. Some employees put in great effort without recognition. Some employees work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Still other employees sacrifice to pursue a higher education while working full time. Consider all these individuals sow and what they may reap in return.
Being in touch with employees is our job as HR professionals. But it is the responsibility of leadership to support efforts—both on and off the job—employees make to fulfill their dreams. Setting up scholarships instead of tuition reimbursement or evaluating wages for fair market value so an employee doesn’t have to work multiple jobs are ways to enact support.
I am a huge believer in bringing “human” back to Human Resources. We may have zero idea what an individual employee is experiencing in their personal life. However, with initiative, it is not difficult to gather input from employees to truly understand what would help ease any struggle they may be enduring. After all, for financial reasons there are some Traditionalists working into early or mid 70s.
In 1927 my great-grandfather Ernst Andersen left Denmark for Iowa at the age of 19. One of 12 children, he chose to take risks and sail to America. He chose to bring his farming knowledge to the Midwest and settle in a community called Avoca, which welcomed Danish immigrants. He continued the heritage of his father by choosing to farm the land. The farm is still in our family. You can see it from the interstate. I am proud as punch every single time I visit. It is not lost on me the perseverance, hope, disappointment, gratitude, and fortitude that went into life as a farmer.
Creator: That makes me sound all powerful. I suppose I am in many ways. Hi! My name's Amy and I've been practicing HR for twelve years now. No big deal. I am here to offer fresh perspective on HR topics and topics about the world we live in and life in general.