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It’s time to question everything you know about HR

‘The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology, but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’ John Naisbitt

We firmly believe in the value that an HR function can deliver as a driver for organisational success, particularly in the current climate of uncertainty. We also believe that the function needs to adapt and flex for this to remain true. We know that technology is advancing at a rate that few of us can fully comprehend. From cloud-based automated processes to AI hiring tools, the key is to work out how we can embrace these advancements, whilst becoming really clear on where HR truly makes a difference – especially when it will be nurturing an increasingly hybrid workforce.

Have you taken the time to step back and consider the current state of HR in your organisation? Is this where you want to be? Are your actions driving the behaviours and values you have made the effort to define? Where are these actions no longer serving you? More importantly, what do you plan to do about it?

Let’s take an old favourite, the annual appraisal, for example. The stats suggest that, at best, these are ineffective. In her book, ‘HR Disrupted’, Lucy Adams references the fact that 92% of companies still have an annual appraisal, yet only 8% believe they are worth the time and effort. So why do we continue to plug away at something that we know is probably no longer fit for purpose? Is it because we don’t know how to do anything else? Are we afraid of a loss of ‘control’?

Letting go of a rigid, fully defined, one-size-fits-all approach with ‘measurable’ outcomes can be scary, but what if giving people greater autonomy led to greater levels of engagement and productivity?

Trust is a concept some leaders need to wrestle with. Why is it, for example, having invested heavily in attracting the right person do some companies immediately put them on probation? What kind of statement are we making? And when the productivity benefits of flexible working are proven, why are so many organisations insisting their people return to the office? Is it that we don’t really trust them?

What do your current approaches and policies say about you as an organisation? Do you come from a position of trust, or do you develop these approaches with the lowest common denominator in mind, ‘just in case’ someone should mess up one day?

Lucy Adams also highlights Netflix’s expense policy. It simply states: ‘Act in Netflix’s best interests.’ That’s it! What else could you ever need to say!? No doubt about it, it’s hugely trusting. And that’s the point. Autonomy is empowering.

Your organisation might be a way away from this, but what could you do to give the message that you trust your employees and their judgements – the same people that you spent time, money, and effort recruiting because you saw potential worth investing in? To get the best out of your people, you need to create cultures where they feel valued, engaged, and motivated. Trust creates high-performing cultures.

Is your approach feeding or stifling ownership and creativity?

Trust enables people to be who we’ve hired them to be. This should especially be true for our leaders. Have we done the work required to understand what we need from them – both now and in the future? After all, the confidence and capability levels of leaders in any organisation are heavily linked to its success. Gone are the days where a leader was expected to have all the answers themselves. Instead, the dynamics are shifting. The best leaders understand and are transparent about their strengths and weaknesses – they create environments where they challenge and trust their teams to come up with the solutions. It’s a bottom-up approach where the direction of travel is set collectively because everyone is trusted and empowered to do the job they were employed to do.

Andy Cope, author of ‘Leadership: The Multiplier Effect’, suggests that a leader’s job is not actually to inspire their teams but to instead ensure that they themselves are inspired. The rest, he says, will follow. The best leaders model good behaviours. They are not ‘bosses’, they are mentors and coaches. They inspire others because their own passions and motivations are highly infectious.

In a political and economic climate where the only certainty is change, the HR function has never been more relevant. To play a significant role in shepherding organisations through the necessary transformation, inevitably, we need to question the status quo. Progressive businesses are eschewing the rigid, top-down structures that inhibit innovation for flexible, bottom-up cultures that are more agile and commercially creative. As such, HR must work closely with senior leaders across their organisations to create the environments where employees are set free to fly. We come back to the fact that this isn’t the easy stuff. It requires openness and curiosity and a willingness to change. It requires trust, too – trust in yourself and the people you work with.

Victoria Beadle

Victoria Beadle

A director of our strategic HR consultancy, Vic is a CIPD qualified HR leader who is passionate about organisations creating cultures that empower people to be successful. She is an advocate for employee engagement that gives people a voice.

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It’s time to question everything you know about HR

There are still people who think of HR as being the fluffy soft stuff of business. It’s not. It’s the hard, gritty, and unpredictable stuff and it has never been more relevant.

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