I’m sorry HR Managers but the game is up…
I’m pretty new to the HR industry and before I came in I had a well formed view of HR Managers. A view that was formed by stories I’ve heard over the years about people’s experiences with HR.
I’m sure none of these will be a surprise, but some of the popular accolades started with…
- HR Managers are boring…
- HR stands for Human Remains…
- HR Managers are the fun police…
- No one really knows what they do between interviews and “think-tank” sessions…
- HR Managers are a necessary evil…
- HR Managers don’t deliver any business value…
- HR Managers enforce nonsensical rules and impede change…
- HR Managers have no authority…
- HR Managers are straighty 180…
These comments are not nice. They paint a picture of a drab, stagnant profession that represents not a lot more than a cost centre in most businesses. Two years ago this was especially important to me as we started to dip a toe into this ‘boring’ industry. We wanted to develop a different take on HR software for continuous performance management.
So I became curious about ‘Human Remains’ and decided to get a first hand understanding of this ‘necessary evil’. I started researching the industry, key events, thought leaders, and major trends.
Transformation of an industry
My research soon brought me across a guy called Josh Bersin. He has many HR related articles on Forbes and for someone like me that normally has the attention span for a 4 min read, his long form articles kept me engaged and hanging off every word.
His perspective on the future of work resonated significantly with my own views and I found myself keen to meet him one day. The stuff I was learning from Josh reinforced what I was reading elsewhere…
…that the HR industry is in the middle of a dramatic and exciting change — and it is far from the label of boring!
The transformation is unlike previous advances in efficiencies, such as the consolidation of HRIS platforms. This time the change is being driven from the business due to widespread recognition that it’s no longer competitive to compete on a ‘better, cheaper, faster’ business model — because too many others are already doing this.
The high performing companies recognise we are now competing on knowledge, service, creativity, innovation, and collaboration business model. These are all human skills, which mean we are actually competing for and with the best talent.
This leads us to an increasingly urgent need to attract and retain high performing team players, and as business, this needs to be a core competency. Enter HR — it’s time to shine!
We were warned about our messaging
We booked ourselves an exhibition stand at the National AHRI conference. We wanted our marketing to stand out from the crowd and reflect our company culture of mixing some fun with work so we designed a couple of banners with the messaging:
Performance management that doesn’t suck!
“I love annual reviews” — said nobody… ever.
We had quite a few people warning us this type of messaging really wouldn’t go down well with the HR community, that it was too negative and somewhat immature.
It was quite a big decision for us, we obviously didn’t want to offend our audience but we were determined not to go with a safe tagline of:
Cloud based HR software
We went with our instincts, setup the stand and nervously waited for some scary HR people to walk past.
And the response… For 90% of the audience, the messaging went down well and it turned out to be a great conversation starter with comments like — “I don’t believe you…how can you have performance management that doesn’t suck?” The other 10% were less impressed with a few head shakes, sideways looks and some quick shuffle walks past the stand:)
Admittedly it was before coffee one morning, but I was in deep conversation with a group of HR people and to my astonishment there was swearing!! Did my ears deceive me, I thought these people were meant to be straighty 180-not so!
At this stage I’d learnt that not only is the industry an exciting space to play, but HR people actually have a sense of humour AND they swear.
What goes on between think-tank sessions?
A few months later I attended the HRTechFest in Sydney where I met Michael Kim from Spotify. After seeing his keynote and meeting him, he left me in no uncertain terms that it’s very much possible for HR to deliver business value.
Between the ‘think-tank sessions’ the Spotify people strategy is driving unstoppable business performance. They’re creating an environment where innovative and passionate people can be their very best. Spotify is in ‘hyper-growth’ and receives over 20,000 job applications per month, yet their performance culture of self-leadership, motivation, dialogue, growth mindset and development stays strong.
The HR guru — yes I got to meet him:)
18 months after becoming a Josh Bersin fanboy I had the pleasure of meeting him.
One of my key takeaways was how Josh highlighted a shift from ‘people management’ to ‘team management’. The research shows that team performance is more about how the team works together vs just having individual high performers on the team.
As a result, there is a big shift away from strategies and software that attempt to have people work in alignment with theoretical management models. Instead, software and strategies are now being designed to reflect the way people actually get work done.
For example, we have a long standing model of an organisational hierarchy where work has traditionally flowed up and down the tree. In reality work is done through cross-functional networks of teams. We are now seeing software and strategies that support networks of teams!
The word is out
It’s time for the long standing HR facade to come down and I’m letting the word out. HR leaders aren’t boring, I’ve been out-partied by some of the best. The industry is going through astronomical and exciting change. HR impact and value is being proven everyday and they’ve got the data to prove it.
Over the last 2 years I have immersed myself in all things HR and I truly, deeply, madly believe HR will be the nucleus for driving business performance in this new era. This will happen through strategies and tools that allow and enable people to bring their best performance to their team, with total support and commitment from the business because the performance results will be speaking for themselves.
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