Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Seeing Through HR Stereotypes

HR is adapting (and in some cases actually using) social media. Note the HRBN 40 under 40. Strategic leadership is helping the organization's most critical department earn Executive buying power. Technology is streamlining the dirty work to allow HR to concentrate on organizational design. Hiring and Retention are improving. Ever-changing policies are requiring interpretive expertise. Learning is at the center of evolving corporate culture. There are more ways than ever to engage our employees. This is not your mother's Human Resources department.

With the emphasis for HR thought leadership at the forefront, there are age-old stereotypes that need to be put to rest. Clean off the Ray Ban lenses, its going to be a fun year!

Stop Stereotyping Generation Y
I remember at the SHRM conference in Chicago 7 years ago we spoke of addressing a new generation of workers. The idea was played-out then and it has been battered like a baby seal in the near decade that has followed. All of the tales of entitlement, attention deficit, lone-wolf ideology, and lack of work ethic are wholly inaccurate. The Generation Y adaptive strategy sucks for two reasons:
1. The inaccurate stereotypes (created by Baby Boomers) serve to insult Generation Y.
2. Addressing your organizational strategy to adapt to only a portion of your employee population makes the rest of your employees feel insignificant.

You wouldn't be an ambassador to the city of Cincinnati if you lived in California. Stop pretending that you know what young adults want (or that it matters). Adapt your organizational strategy for the sake of your entire organizational culture.

Don't Pretend Technology Solves Problems
Onboarding, employee recognition, document management, learning, and performance management can all be channeled with great efficiency through technology. That's a good thing! We cannot pretend however that by simply spending a million dollars and a year of our lives implementing said platforms will solve organizational issues. We need people to correlate application significance to our problem solving process. We need communication and learning to promote program adoption. We need an internal marketing strategy to ensure our new platforms are accepted as cutting edge.

You cannot throw technology at problems and pretend they will be fixed.

Marginalize Nonstrategic Players
We are fighting to kick the administrative stereotype of Human Resources. Every department has an administrative function, HR only has the aforementioned reputation because we promote through tenure. Leadership in any department is usually a 'best athlete' qualification. HR is the central strategic element to employee engagement. As such, HR is the most important part of the organizational strategy. HR is a revenue producing department not a budget-crunching, paper pushing, file room.

It is time to develop leaders in HR based on their comprehension of organizational development, the ability to execute on strategic initiatives, and their measured contribution of revenue....this is how every other department measures performance and promotes leaders.

HR Vendors: Show Some Creativity
Walk to floor of the SHRM annual conference seeking a "vendor" to provide a product or service and you will leave the expo hall with your head spinning. There are thousands of vendors who do the same thing, stress the same capabilities, tout their client  base, demo their technology, speak of their Global footprint, and hand out product specs (and swag). None of it makes any sense because the vendors exist in a copy-cat culture that serves to out-BS the competition.

HR Vendors: stop pretending your cutting edge technology matters if you cannot assess the inefficiency before you prescribe a solution. Stop copying one another...don't create a gamification app simply because you think gamers are taking over organizations. Stop pretending to create a culture of appreciation while you treat your own employees with limited respect. Stop pretending a solution is the right solution for your prospective customers simply because it is best for your margins.

We can pretend we want a seat at the table (sorry Matt - donation to follow). We can pretend to understand the need to evolve the organizational development track. We are forced to pretend because we listen to what everyone tells us what we need to be. A department that is tasked to ensure organizational stability probably cannot be disruptive. A department that serves a critical administrative function needs administrators. A department that controls payroll needs to understand headcount. HR should not pretend to be something we are not simply because a vendor told us to be more strategic. Nor should HR pretend to be something we used to be simply because the 40 year veteran at the helm of our department refuses to adapt to change. Cut the crap and get real: be who you want to be by eliminating what doesn't matter. Ignore those who seek to commoditize HR!

Don't Forget to Remember!


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