Much like scientists who classify living and fossil organisms into domain, kingdom, class, family, genus and species, we in HR often do the same:
- small/medium-sized business or large business
- industry A or industry B
- traditional or cutting-edge
- local or regional or global
- stodgy industry or sexy industry
- well-known brand vs. unknown local organization (“She worked for Nike while he only worked for Acme Community Bank.”)
We use this shorthand in a misguided attempt to categorize the knowledge and competency of any given HR professional. We make assumptions that if Debbie HR Director worked for a local entity she won’t have the ability to understand the complexity of a regional, let alone global, organization. This also manifests itself in job postings that require specific industry experience; the assumption being that even though Debbie spent 20 years leading HR functions in health care and technology she would not have the capacity to immerse herself into learning and understanding the banking industry.
We pigeonhole people for any number of reasons; in an attempt to screen candidates, when creating an invite list for an event or conference or, quite frankly, when being cliquish and elitist.
Now there is, I have to admit, one demarcation listed up there that makes sense to me although I may have used the wrong terms. Perhaps they should be:
Traditional: dreary, tedious, humorless, out-of-touch, rooted in the past, focused on HR as compliance…primarily. Focused on HR as compliance … only.
Cutting edge: future focused, ever evolving, not content with the status quo. Restless, curious, excited. Ready to challenge and be challenged.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit as I’ve been preparing to head to Cleveland this week for DisruptHR. We’re going to talk about talent, culture, technology and people – in a new way – because DISRUPT is an information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field.
Lord knows we needs some energizing.
I’ve had a few moments over the last several weeks where, in various conversations with mid-career human resource professionals I hit anew a level of frustration. Why, I wondered yet again, is there such aversion to acknowledging that the old-ways-you-learned-to-do-HR in 1991 are no longer sufficient? Why, I marveled during one discussion, do HR practitioners sink in their heels and adamantly refuse to explore the potential benefits of change?
Am I being cliquish and elitist myself? Are those of us who attempt to push, pull and drag our colleagues to places where they don’t wish to go guilty of emphasizing these segmentations?
I don’t think so. Nor do I believe that’s the intent of any individual or group. Rather there’s a conviction that a rising tide lifts all boats; collective change is required for the survival of both the HR function and individual HR practitioners.
At some point in the very near future the CEOs, COOs and CFOs who are hiring HR professionals will demand a different kind of HR. When the boomers in charge (finally) retire and the next C-level exec (born during the Reagan administration) in charge of hiring the HR leader takes over, s/he isn’t going to put up with traditional crap; no matter the industry. No matter the size. No matter the brand. Stacks of spreadsheets, outdated and cumbersome hiring practices, love for command-and-control, and an aversion to technology already pegs many HR practitioners as out of touch dinosaurs; keeping up the same old same old means they will soon be merely fossilized remains.
And if our profession perishes will anyone care enough to bring us back a la the Australian gastric-brooding frog? Or will our business partners be happy to say good riddance – relegating us to museums to cuddle up alongside the skeletons of the wooly mammoth and the T-Rex?
I don’t want to run the risk that someone, somewhere, will have to make the case for HR de-extinction. Unless we all push the boundaries a bit more I don’t think there will be a lot of support for the revival of the HR species.
It’s time to face it; there’s already been disruption in the workplace.
It’s time – well past time – to disrupt HR so we can catch up.
image: The Woolly Mammoth at the Royal BC Museum, Victoria, British Columbia. (wikicommons)