HR + Leaders: Don't Overlook the Outlier Employees

Just having returned from HRevolution, I was filled with tons of ideas, approaches and philosophies. My head was swimming with where to go next. I was trying to land on what aspect of HR resonated with me coming out of this UnConference. Then I remembered . . .

I had a conversation with Dwane Lay and William Tincup about the state of HR and what we all thought, and one term kept coming up . . . outliers. Now, this isn’t the same as the recent Malcolm Gladwell book – Outliers. (I’m a huge Gladwell fan!!) What we were talking about was the tendency for HR to manage to the exception.

I agreed with this wholeheartedly! I know that it’s difficult to work with people, but that’s why we chose HR. There are so many amazing people who work in and around us every day. However, companies tend to focus on people who are exceptions, who underperform, degrade and possibly detract from moving the company forward. Instead of focusing on the mass of talent that rocks it everyday, we follow the outliers. If the entire company was made up of people like the outliers, there would be a lot of trouble. So why should HR mainly focus on a group that is not the driving force of the company? Yes, they are a portion of the company that is important and should be acknowledged, but to base everything around them is taking it too far.

You can look at policies, handbooks and procedures that are written by companies in HR every day that focus on such a small percentage of people. This hurts the majority of employees who are doing their jobs each and every day. While the outliers shouldn’t go unnoticed, the average employees are the ones who account for most of the population.

So, what can we do?

HR needs to understand and own that one thing we have to our advantage is the ability to be consistent.  This is different than being “fair.” It really is. If we are consistent in how we engage, deal with and lead people, we add incredible value!! If people in HR would take this approach and practice consistency, the outliers would take care of themselves. With a consistent HR, variability is decreased between their actions and the actions of the employees, making everything much more stable.

Take a look around, HR. Where is your focus? If your systems give employees the ability to thrive, contribute and develop – you’re doing well. If your systems look to constrict, deter and confine – you’re following outliers.

Now, some may say that the group that gathered at HRevolution are “outliers” to the norm of the HR community. I’d beg to differ. You see in Gladwell’s book he talks about outliers that are successful, move things forward and also lie outside the norm.

Outliers are not always a bad thing; although they should not be the basis of HR’s views on a company, often times they can produce something great. The group I was running with is pushing the boundaries of HR to open up new frontiers in order to set new norms.  Why don’t you join us?

IMAGE VIA CarbonNYC

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