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
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
Happy Wednesday everyone! I’m thrilled to be contributing a post over at the EOList this week entitled ‘ On Rethinking HR‘, in which I ponder the so-called HR ‘doom loop’ and ask: “To be an effective HR pro, do you need to be more of an HR expert, or an expert on your organization?”. If you aren’t familiar with the EOList, you need to get over there for a visit! The brainchild of Bonni Titgemeyer, the EOList is one my favorite HR blogs, and a terrific source of HR networking and employment opportunities. May the remainder of the week treat you well…
Organizational culture: obsessed over, misunderstood, oversimplified, and scapegoated.
“We need to change our culture”, “That place has such a toxic culture”, “Our culture wouldn’t allow for that” “The real problem is our culture”…
Sound familiar? Whether you’ve heard it at your own organization, or come across a similar premise in one of the many fervent cultural calls-to-action online, it’s clear to me that these days culture is on the operating table. Underlying all these arguments is a sense of urgency, and a belief that culture can and should be engineered, shaped, and managed:
Mold it, control it, strengthen it, change it, or it will change you! Your efforts will mean the difference between culture as organization-limiting obstacle, and culture as critical competitive advantage!
But the sloppy and imprecise way we talk about ‘culture’ also effects our thinking and speech about changing culture, so that we find ourselves awash in popular discourse that basically equates organizational culture change with switching the wallpaper in your house: a real pain in the ass, but nothing that you and a few friends couldn’t get done over a long weekend. Read more
I spend a great deal of time thinking, talking and writing about how HR could and should be different and better, and there is no shortage of others who do the same. Which is why I think it’s really important to make something perfectly clear- I am not a member of the HR Sucks Brigade. I love HR. And each year that passes I love it more. I love that it naively and enthusiastically sets out to bring some kind of order to the chaotic, dysfunctional and unavoidably imperfect collection of humans that is the modern organization. Read more
Happy Superbowl Sunday! Although I much prefer to watch the other football, I can never resist tuning in for the Superbowl entertainment. This year, pop star Alicia Keys will be performing the US national anthem. One assumes that this required time away from her other role, that of newly appointed ”Global Creative Director” for Blackberry (formerly known as RIM, and formerly a Canadian technology success story). Announced this week, Ms. Keys’ impressive new position got me thinking about a mysterious organizational phenomenon: ‘title inflation’. Read more
I spent three days of last week at the HRPA Annual Conference here in Toronto. As always, it was a great event to reconnect with tons of brilliant HR folks in my network, as well as make new connections, and absorb ideas and knowledge from the many session speakers and keynotes- and this year was especially fun. As in past years, a couple of those speakers brought up ‘the Z word’…no, not zombies: ‘Zappos’. If you work in HR, or have any interest in organizational culture or employee engagement, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’ve read all about Zappos’ approach to corporate culture. They’ve been referenced as a benchmark in this area for many years now, and although I have nothing against Zappos, this year the Z word gave me pause. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about organizational culture recently, or maybe it was this recent Tim Sacket post decrying the obsession with ‘best practices’, but I just couldn’t muster my usual enthusiasm for Zappos’ legendary approach.