Building a Bold, New HR: 10 Things We Need Now

Building something new always demands a moment of pause. So, we did just that. We paused and posed a much needed question:

If you could disrupt one aspect of HR to help employees — what would that be?

To say the least, these weren’t one-word, one-sided responses. (Please note this is not a scientific study. It reflects a conversation.) Your comments held honesty and a sense of fair play — and you shared thoughtful, success-oriented solutions rooted in experience. BTW, more than a few HR professionals shared their aspirations for their own field — and their input to the conversation is vital.

It’s clear that many of us are frustrated with HR — one comment described the function as “the monster in the closet”. But, HR isn’t an enemy. It is just their time to evolve. I’d rather say that where we are, is a needed point of inflection. Organizational life has changed dramatically over the last decade and that has played a key role here.

But, through all of this — all I see is opportunity.

We should build on what is already working and what we have learned, to make key adjustments. It’s been a rather steep learning curve of late (just consider the engagement dilemma alone). But, we’ve already begun to make forward progress.

Here are 10 frequently mentioned elements, woven through your responses:

  1. A greater “People Emphasis”. Yes indeed. In so many words — many of you expressed a desire for less paperwork, legalese and fewer processes that draw energy away from supporting people. When supporting us, offer a menu of options that can meet individual needs.
  1. Serve as an organizational role model. I had the strong feeling that employees would like HR to step up and help drive the “success bus”. This involves getting out there and really interacting with employees. With this gained perspective, provide the guidance that employees need to grow and improve. Provide the missing puzzle pieces necessary to direct behavioral change. This could lead to both increased trust and respect for the entire HR function.

From William Wisniewski: “Get HR staff out from behind their desks and talking to their customers.”

  1. Align (and strengthen) culture. (What group is in a better position to do this?) The mission and core beliefs of the organization need to be consistently communicated. HR could coordinate and monitor this function — serve in a consulting mode and direct energy toward what really matters: fulfilling the organization’s mission. So, shout vision (as well as strategy) from the rooftops. 
  1. Lose annual performance reviews that fail to direct behavior. These prehistoric giants loom as growing obstacles to effective performance. Many of you reflected that annual reviews simply aren’t helping. Once a year just doesn’t do it. (It never did.)

From Deidre Datolli: “Instead of process driven one size fits all performance reviews, initiate a culture of authentic conversations around critical performance indicators.”

  1. Provide avenues that drive performance feedback. Building on the previous element — formal, paper-intense, performance documentation nightmares should be replaced with a continual flow of feedback focusing on growth. We may have a to iterate as we go. But change is really the way forward.

From Peter Haasz: “For me it’s all about feedback as a means to developing empathy in all relationships throughout the organization. More understanding leaders and more understanding staff will lead to all parties feeling more engaged and connected. And of course it all begins with trust.”

  1. Train us and help us grow. Yes, employees may leave you one day. However, that doesn’t mean the organization shouldn’t help us develop. (Managers in particular should be supported.) These comments sum up the sentiment:

From Nina Amato: “Ask employees and interviewees which training they would like to have, even if that training were to propel their career in a new direction that differed from the job requirements.”

From Damien Newland: “Authentic Learning & Development – Helping employees to be better at what they want to be.”

From Margie Jennings: “Cross training to build cooperation and appreciation of others work.”

  1. Look inward. Organizations should look to their employees to fill internal opportunities. This can only be accomplished to through systems that actually take stock of who we are (and what we are capable of) as contributors.
  1. Support internal networking. Many comments focused on HR becoming a central hub that could foster internal knowledge building. To be more specific, we’re observing a need for varying functions to learn more about each other. We are nowhere if we do not understand what the other functions of the organization are really doing. Mentoring is critical to this end, but the basics would be a good start: 

From Brian Bileski: “Weekly mentor lunches bringing together three people from different levels – from management to entry-level. give a light case study for them to work on and resolve.

From Yves Kaiser: “Simple. Offer time and space to eat/have coffee together.”

  1. Improve transition points. Recruiting, on-boarding and departures were signaled out as areas where HR can bring back the “human touch”. Careers are a big deal — and all of these processes are key. Here, here.

From Natasha Beach: “Put the human and common sense back into recruiting practices. So much good talent goes undiscovered.”

  1. Help us do our best work and “break the mold”. While reading your feedback, I had a strong sense that we would like to be encouraged to do your best work, break free of the chains that history can impose and simply create. To be quite honest, I’m betting that most HR professionals would like to do the same.

Do you have something to add to the discussion? Weigh in.

This post was first published on on February 26, 2016