HR exec shares stories of his life’s work

Tierney Harvey
Posted 7/12/17

FLEMING ISLAND – A new book written by a Fleming Island human resources expert gives insight on leadership, failures, success and the impact on people. Michael Losey’s “Touching People’s …

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HR exec shares stories of his life’s work

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – A new book written by a Fleming Island human resources expert gives insight on leadership, failures, success and the impact on people. Michael Losey’s “Touching People’s Lives” was written based on his five decades of experience in human resources, 26 of which he spent with Unisys, a global information technology company.

Losey begins the book with a story about Michael, a fourteen-year-old boy Losey babysat during a summer home from studying at the University of Michigan. Michael went to a school for children with intellectual disabilities, Losey states in the book, and at first, it was difficult to find activities to pass the time.

However, Losey said, over the course of the summer, he saw a transformation in Michael and the two became friends. Losey helped Michael convince his parents to send him to the local high school, he said, and the experience of helping improve someone’s life gave him immense joy. This set him on a path of human resources.

Losey once held the title of president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management, the largest worldwide professional society for HR. Though he is now retired, SHRM awards the annual $50,000 Michael R. Losey Excellence in Human Resource Research Award, to recognize a professional for significant past and ongoing research that impacts the HR management field.

During his career, Losey testified as an expert in human resources before Congress and collected an abundance of interesting and entertaining stories that will provide advice on leadership.

Published by SHRM, the book is told in short chapters that center on specific anecdotes that are grouped by the lessons the experience taught him. It covers everything, from mergers that threatened employee morale, unintentional workplace discrimination and how failure to anticipate change can bring even the most powerful companies down.

During his years as head of personnel for several companies, Losey learned the importance of being a leader and how leadership impacts others’ lives.

He said he once received a phone call from an employee who was worried about an upcoming merger and threatened to shoot himself while on the phone.

“I remember it like yesterday,” he said. He told the employee he would get help, called the police and spoke to his boss personally.

That is an extreme example, but Losey’s book is full of moments in which key decisions by management or him personally had a drastic impact on others. He stresses the importance of making the right decisions the first time. As Losey says in the book and the last story proves, there is not always a second chance to fix those mistakes that touch other people. The damage is done.

As CEO for SHRM, Losey made a full-force effort to change the laws of Congress. At the time, members of Congress and their staff were exempt from many labor laws. It was done in the name of separation of powers, he said, but without being subject to those laws, leaders in Congress were affecting people’s lives without considering the full impact.

“I loved it. I love the field,” he said. “And people will say that I changed the field to make it better.”

Losey started off in business school and he hated his HR classes. However, a professor took Losey under his wing and taught him to love the field.

He said the biggest change he saw during his career was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law that made it illegal for employers to discriminate based on race, religion, sex or national origin. Losey said though he graduated with a master’s in human resources in 1962, just two years before the act passed, his degree did not prepare him for the change.

“I never had one word about Civil Rights in my courses at the University of Michigan,” he said. “Anticipating the future is the most important part of management. If there were no changes, you wouldn’t need leaders.”

The book details Losey’s struggle to expand employment to African American employees. He said that the law itself did not immediately bring about opportunities for people of color; it took an active effort from the company.

Another change he has seen is the increase in the number of women in the workplace. He said HR is now dominated by women. At the beginning of his career, that was not the case.

“There were no women, except for clerical,” he said.

Losey said he expects the role of women to continue expanding.

One of the biggest challenges, he said, is health care.

In addition to many essays and articles, Losey has co-authored “Tomorrow’s HR Management” and “The Future of HR Management.” His new book, “Touching People’s Lives,” is available for purchase on Amazon. For more information about the book or Losey’s career, visit www.mikelosey.com.

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