I would be late to the party if I start to recount for you all that has been said about how people feel about HR today. Clearly there is a lot that people have to say.
Here are some sound bytes that drive home the point
- Excessive focus on processes as an end in itself. Lots of people to go to and complex organization to get simple tasks accomplished
- Great conceptual frameworks - don't work in real world
- Focus on Chasing and Nagging to complete templates and programs
- Very professional team that loves their policies and have policies to govern more policies
The positive aspect of this is that people "care" enough to provide feedback. All of it underscores the fact that - HR is a critical part of our businesses - after all - all businesses are "people" businesses.
There are some shifts we have to make as an HR community if we really need to keep in step with creating value in the current business environment. Here are the key shifts I think we need to make
Design for Simplicity
Design to drive simplicity in everything we do in our organizations ruthlessly. Complexity is cost and we all agree that we don't need more of it. Make structures, approvals, processes, handoffs as simple as possible. One of the best books on the subject that I have read is Simple Rules by Donald Sull (MIT Sloan) and Kathleen Eisenhardt (Stanford) who masterfully challenge how we think about complexity and offer strategies to drive simplification. One practical example is the plethora of meetings we attend. Very impactful example is the Jeff Bezos - Two Pizza rule - Never have a meeting where two pizzas couldn't feed the entire group. Actively design to shorter meetings or empower people to take away the need to have unnecessary meetings. This will drive faster and effective decision making and will save everyone a huge amount of time and emotional drain.
Analyze to Enable
Peter Cappelli, Professor at Wharton Business School sums to up well - "Get in front of the data engine" . “Right now, the HR function is behind the data engine,” but HR should “try to get away from just nagging”. Of course having the right data is not the end in itself but a means to a good conversation. I firmly support the view expressed by Prasad Setty, VP People Analytics and Compensation at Google says - "People (Managers) should make people decisions". HR role has to shift from being the "blocker/gatekeeper" to working with the people leaders to arrive at actionable insight and decisions from data.
Empower to Grow
HR has an important role in creating an environment where the power to develop and grow is in the right place - with an empowered employee. This is about making sure that managers recognize and provide encouragement to people to realize their personal aspirations. We have to stop being prescriptive in our training plans, and cookie cutter development programs. Work towards customized and personalized plans - plan by individual - after all when did one size fit more than one perfectly. Accenture Institute of High performance approach of workforce-of -one is a step change in this direction.
Catalyze for social and cultural cohesiveness
I disappointingly hear many HR functions declare say that - culture is not a HR "activity". Better still - culture is about doing employee surveys and then drop the data to the business for their action planning. HR should own the cultural agenda strongly - Culture comes from shared experiences which leads to commonly held belief sets. HR has to be actively involved in "designing" these experiences so that the culture permeates as intended across boundaries. This would enhance a sense of identity, engagement and pride.
Spar for Value
Understand the business models well. Understand how money is made and what the levers of the business are. Spar with the business leads to co create solutions. Stop saying - "let me take this away and come back to you ". Black box interactions are a thing of the past - Embrace design thinking to work with the stakeholders to create solutions with them not in splendid isolation. This really needs a level of immersion and the courage to have open honest and meaningful conversations. If you can muster this courage up - you will have set yourselves up for a good outcome
There is immense value that HR can offer if we stay true to our purpose and change the paradigm in which we choose to operate. This would greatly enhance the ability of the businesses to deliver and for the people to be engaged and find meaning and happiness in their work.
As John Quincy Adams said "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader" .
The time to inspire is now..