There are few experiences as humbling as starting a new job. Overnight, you are transformed from a fully competent contributor to an unproven rookie. You enter a new world, where the language, customs and culture are unfamiliar. The mental ‘maps’ you’ve used to navigate your past environment are of limited help; in fact, they may lead you astray. Though certain practices, interactions or cues you encounter might look like ones you’ve experienced before, in this new landscape they may carry a very different meaning than what you assume.
In this respect, entering a new organization is profoundly similar to moving to a foreign country. I should know. When I was 13 years old, one of many moves with my family led us to Saudi Arabia, where we lived for 5 years. Even now, I can play the scenes of our arrival and first days in my head like a video recording. The chaotic airport, the oppressively hot night air, the strange smells and staccato Arabic enveloping us, the desolate nothingness of the desert highway at night, and the gecko perched near our new front door as if to welcome us. Whether a new organization, or a new country, the complete immersion into a different culture feels a lot like waking up in a Picasso painting. Read more
Metrics. Big data. Analytics. If you work in HR and haven’t heard these words over and over again in the last few years then you probably work for ‘Underground Bunkers R Us’. The rest of us have heard again and again that the next big thing in HR is learning how to better capture and use the information we are all awash in to make our work more evidence-based, measurable and targeted.
In a recent article series for Personnel Today, Paul Kearns sets the bar even higher, making the case for putting HR on the same professional footing as medicine in Part 1 ‘It is Time to Build HR into a True Profession’:
“It [HR] is a highly skilled job that requires the same level of training and dedication as the most qualified and experienced brain surgeons.”
“If HR is to achieve the requisite level of professionalism, it has to become as scientific as it can be, and that requires methods based on the best evidence available.” Read more
Happy Saturday everyone! It’s a little extra happy if you’re in Canada, as it is the Victoria Day long weekend and the sun is shining. Hope you’re all enjoying it as much as I am. Things have been a bit quiet on the blog in recent weeks, but I assure you that I have several posts on the way. This week I was honoured to write a guest post over at The Buzz on HR, celebrating the anniversary of Sarah Williams’ fantastic blog by writing about What HR Means to Me. As it turns out, that has something to do with The Hulk (Incredible, not Hogan), sandwiches, and the lack of sorcery involved in HR. Sometimes I am as surprised as anyone about how these things turn out…
Anyway, please take a minute to check it out, and stay tuned for new Talent Vanguard content soon!
I strongly dislike the phrase “put the human back in human resources”. In part because it has become an unimaginative cliché and also because it usually sits atop a passive-aggressive treatise pleading with HR people to stop being such heartless, paper-loving bureaucrats and realize that employees are people too.
The premise underlying these arguments is usually that doing HR well is really just a matter of caring about people. This is nonsense, and does our profession a significant disservice. To see what this belief has wrought, ask 10 HR students why they want to work in HR, and I will wager money that at least 7 of them will say “ Because I’m a real ‘people person’”. Sigh….. Read more
As HR evolves, one of the many challenges we face as a profession is how best to deliver value to our organizations in ways that are aligned with the leaner, fast-moving nature of today’s business landscape. The wide adoption of HR technology, self-service models, and outsourcing are a few methods that the HR profession has increasingly turned to in an effort to place limits on the admin-focused work that has threatened to overwhelm our function. And yet…this kind of automation is unacknowledged as a delicate art; a balance must be sought. We need only look to the larger market for examples…
In recent years a handful of telecom and tech service companies have begun advertising the ease with which their customers can access a “real human being’ by phone as a key differentiator of their service. A real human- imagine! Read more
“It is generally the case with figures of authority that when the masses start laughing at you, you are through.”
Those in positions of authority, including HR pros, would do well to remember this quote. It comes from an article in the Economist discussing recent developments in language policy and enforcement in the Canadian province of Quebec. For those of you who are not Canadian, allow me to briefly contextualize:
Quebec, a French colony that was subsequently conquered by the English (thus being included as part of Canada’s confederation), has grown increasingly resolute in their efforts to protect the French language’s prevalence and usage within their province. Recently, an Italian restaurant owner in Montreal revealed that the office responsible for enforcing French language policy in Quebec- l’Office québécois de la langue française – had sent him a letter demanding that he change his menu to replace Italian words like ‘pasta’ with French ones. The media has had a bit of a field day with this, and dug up a few more ‘extreme’ examples of this type of highly enthusiastic application of authority, leading the Minister in charge of this enforcement to resign. Read more
I consider it a great honour to be featured this week at The HR Fieldguide, as part of Erik Smetana’s ongoing ’9 Questions’ interview series. If you’re not fortunate enough to already be familiar with The HR Fieldguide I recommend that you add it to your ‘must-read’ list immediately. Erik produces a consistently great mix of musings, deep HR thoughts, and HR thought leader interviews…it’s a truly terrific HR blog. You can check out my interview here.
I think a lot about the future. And although I’m not that old, I’ve already learned that the future, when one gets there, differs from the idea of the future in ways that are unexpected and impossible to predict. I think it’s this ‘certain uncertainty’ that drives us to continually envision possible futures. But these visions, fed by our past experiences and current outlook, often tell us more about our present selves than they do about where we’ll actually end up.
I’ve been reading a lot of superb, thought-provoking visions of the future of work and Human Resources from others recently, and grappling with what they might mean for us as employees, managers and HR professionals. The difference between many of these possible realities is vast, but this shouldn’t surprise us- humanity’s visions of the future are often shaped by the contrasting themes of utopia and dystopia. Read more
Can I assume that you’ve heard about the recent case in Florida in which a woman was arrested for riding a manatee? When I heard about this incident my first thought was: “What kind of idiot tries to ride a manatee? Shouldn’t this lady have known better?” The answer, of course, is yes- reasonable people do not see animals drifting along a Florida waterway and think “All aboard!”
But the Florida Keys are positively blanketed in signs like the one above, and a law does in fact exist outlawing the behavior in question. I find it sad that the good people of Florida must legislate for the clueless few, but thatseems to be the world that we live in. A world where our coffee cups bear dire warnings about the hot liquids within, and my curling iron has an enormous label advising me against putting it into my eyes. Sadder still, this lunacy does not stop at the borders of our organizations- many of us will have encountered organizations that create policies for the clueless few. Read more