Wednesday 23 July 2014

HR - The Future?

The week before last, I attended the Changeboard, Future Talent Conference at the Royal Opera House,  a fantastic venue.

The range of speakers was excellent from Alain de Botton to Sir Anthony Seldon and Lucy Adams, the former Director of BBC HR.  It made me reflect on my experience of working in HR and how we should equip ourselves to prepare for the future.  It's an exciting time to be in HR and some bold action is required to consolidate and build on our position.

I've set out some of my thoughts below, which were triggered by the conference and my experience. If you have any questions or feedback I'd love to hear from you.

Career for Life
As Ashok Vaswani from Barclays pointed out,  the concept of a 'career for life' is over.  Instead we can expect a life of careers.  This is definitely the expectation of the workforce aged 18-30.  In general, they have no expectation of building a career in one organisation.  Employers need to focus their recruitment strategy on their ability to provide an exciting and stimulating career for say, two years.  This also chimes with a related issue from my experience of large organisations and their focus on promotion.

The expectation that all people in an organisation will be focussed on achieving promotion is neither realistic or achievable. Workers in the 30 plus demographic may wish to remain with one employer but they are entitled to a stimulating and challenging career at a level of their choosing,  rather than being pushed to aspire to a level where they will neither be comfortable or inspired.

Build Policy around Positivity
This was a very good point made by Lucy Adams.  Often HR policy is built around the "worst possible outcome" scenario.   I think there is a tendency in HR to create parent-child relationships. HR can be the paternalistic/maternalistic bringer of discipline,  doom and reduced rations with a focus on the naughty people.  How would it be if we assumed that the people in our organisations, in general,  wanted to be there and had the desire to do a good job?

Your Employees are Adults
Netflix created big news by abandoning their annual leave form. They found that people did not abuse the system and that they generally took less than their leave allowance.  In my experience, this is not such a revelation. My Civil Service leave form was not checked for many years.  I did keep a record for personal planning purposes but I was trusted to manage my allocation.

Recruit Leaders with Humanity
Often it seems that leaders check-in their external experience and natural skills at reception and believe they have to act in a particular, process driven way with very little freedom.  Lucy Adams articulated the need for 'low ego' leaders who were prepared to develop their natural skills and strengths, be honest and humble to allow others to flourish. This includes the next generation of leaders. 

Be Obsessed about Knowing the People
This is about using data effectively and predictively. It's also about being interested in your people, knowing their outside interests, skills and ambitions.

Build HR with Humanity
Creating and nurturing Adult-to-Adult relationships will go a long way. I'd like to see less guidance and more trust.  This isn't about going soft but it is about valuing people and HR can really set the example.

Get the Comms Right
Lucy Adams was very honest - her 'all staff' emails at the peak of the Savile/Enwistle crisis were criticised for their stiff tone. The response from staff was immediate, they were looking for the hidden messages in each communication.  The emails had been cleared by multiple departments including legal, comms and other board members.  

The Unions at the time were using communications that were focussed on the audience and included pithy headlines and cartoons.  They made far more of an impact.

These are my initial thoughts.  What is your experience as either an HR Professional or customer?  It would be great to collect some stories.




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