As employment law and HR professionals, our mission always seem to require us exploring strange new worlds (perhaps a study of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?).  

We also seek out new life and new civilizations (the new ADA law does seems to be written in foreign language at times now that you mention it). 

And of course we boldly go (or go boldly) where no one has gone before. (A little pandemic flu hype, perhaps?)

Of course, this "mission" may just be a result of having Star Trek on my mind with the movie opening up tonight.

But, in honor of the new movie, let us take a step back from some of the seriousness and pessimism that’s been permeating the workplace during the recession and review four lessons that employers can learn from the Star Trek universe:

  1. Diversity Works.  Think about the first incarnation of the show. There were people on the crew of various races and cultural backgrounds. (And of course, a Vulcan).  Later version featured African-American and female captains.  All of which proves a point — the diversity of backgrounds can be an advantage in the workplace.  Most companies agree it’s important; but acting upon it is another step. 
  2. Every Workplace Needs a Little Joy. Never has this been truer than today. The "survivors" at companies whose ranks have been thinned may deal with empty cubicles and quiet phone lines. But even in the toughest of times, workers on Star Trek could have lunch in a "Holodeck" just  to escape.  Think about the little or no-cost things that an office can do to keep the workplace a enjoyable place to work.  These suggestions on how to erase "survivor’s guilt" can help.
  3. Even a Spaceship Has Rules; Follow Them. One of Star Trek’s repeated themes was to follow the "Prime Directive" — a rule that suggested that the spaceship not interfere in the affairs of another world or alien race.  While that rule was certainly broken from time to time, it controlled much of the leadership team’s decisions. Similarly, your company likely has policies and procedures. When was the last time anyone actually READ all of them?  Are your FMLA policies up-to-date? Do you have a social media policy? And are you following your own rules?
  4. Good Leaders and Talent Really Can Make All the Difference: As this article suggests, each leader brings a different style. Indeed, it has been suggested that the key to success in human resources is as simple as hiring the most talented people around and letting them be superstars.  Star Trek has shown that high achievers are critical to the success of a ship. In these tough economic times, that lesson has never been more true.  Even as cuts are needed, finding ways to measure talent within your organization and figuring out ways to keep that talent, is crucial to the long-term success of your business.  Avoiding the asteroid fields (or lawsuits) along the way isn’t a bad idea either.

Optimism reigns supreme in the Star Trek universe. After a winter of layoffs and flu scares, it’s a feeling well worth tapping into. 

Or, as an old "proverb" says: Live long and prosper.

(Also a big tip of my hat to this post discussing other life lessons from Star Trek.)