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We HR & people professionals talk a great deal about leadership, development, motivation, being strategic, the next model, alignment, impact and so on. Fair enough.

But in doing so I would like to suggest that we ignore some of the really crucial but under-recognised contributions we can make with our day-to-day input into a business. Sometimes we even help save a life.

This happened. (I’m disguising this heavily by the way so let’s imagine it happened 25 years ago in a recruitment business and relates to someone who our American friends would call John Doe.)

One day I (the HR chap) was sitting at my desk, mid-morning on a Monday (the time is important), up to my neck in a salary review or something equally as riveting, when up wanders a fairly close colleague.


John had not turned up to work. The fact that they were just over an hour late was immediately noticed.

John just would not do that. He would call. He would have his phone on. Particularly when there was a really crucial meeting that morning.

I knew John. I remember sitting back and thinking that something was not right.

To cut a long story short we immediately sent an HR team member and a colleague of the person to John’s home.

They gained entry via the concierge. They found John critically ill and incapacitated in bed – a bed into which , it transpired, John had put himself on the Sunday evening as he was feeling a bit odd.

The consultant in the hospital told us that John would not have made it if he hadn’t been found that morning. Instead – over time – John recovered.

My point? Emphatically not to over-claim this as an achievement – it was just a good (lucky?) call by two people. A call I am very glad we made. A good collaboration between HR and a line manager.

My point to anyone in employment is this: if this were you would anyone notice?

Would they reach the decision to go to your house? Would your “personal brand” be sufficiently positive that people would be concerned? Or would people just say “Oh he’s often late – always pulling a sickie – unreliable. We’ll wait until later before acting”?

Would you be found in time?