No I am not from the outback but I have learned a great deal by mastering the art of the walkabout. This is a simple trick I read in some management 101 book many years ago and it applies to HR in a very meaningful way.
I like to walk through all the buildings or floors or common areas in my organizations that I support. I am not there with a specific agenda. I am there to chat and listen. Sometimes, I learn more during these 15-20 minute walkabouts than I do in all day meetings.
Now, I am in HR so I will get silly comments sometimes about, “Oh no, this can’t be good that HR is here on a __ (fill in the blank on the day and time). That’s okay. I find that the more I do these walkabouts the more comfortable people get with talking to me.
I have a pretty simple and standard and cheesy question I ask everytime I see someone after I say hello. “What’s new and exciting in your world?” That can lead down the path of a new beer they are brewing, what cool project they are working on, or the fact that they are not super happy with their manager and need some advice on what to do. They also give me tidbits to learn and piece together the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say.
The walkabouts I do aren’t meant to learn anything specific. They are meant to keep a pulse on the teams I support. If I am able to use information I learn on the walkabout to better inform a manager and help guide discussions for a team member who needs help, that is a win.
If I just get to try a new beer that someone home brewed, I can’t complain about that either.