I went to one of those breakfast HR networking events recently. For those in the profession who’ve fallen out of love with them, they are not so fun-packed events filled with either socially awkward HR people who have it written into their annual performance review to attend or pushy types who’ve prepared the same 10 questions each time to make them look clever, or get hired. Sometimes they are rescued by the promise of damn good content and that’s the clincher for me. Anything else is a bonus. I say content but I also value free bacon sandwiches and a coffee that hasn’t stewed yet.
Anyway, first half was a highly informative session on the world of unconscious bias interrupted intermittently by your archetypal obnoxious headhunter type at the back with HR Tourette’s shouting the words ‘client’, ‘me’ and ‘growth’s back’. During the break God decided to throw me a hospital pass and the obnoxious recruiter Tarquin (not his real name as given he worked for financial services he wanted his identity protected) snook up and told me awkwardly he had read my recent blog and thought I was “funny”.
What, shouted my inner voice ??!! My underlying message to the HR masses that opportunity for organisational advancement lies within their grasps if they can be bothered to work themselves up beyond their usual risk averse DNA seemed lost to….. ‘funny’ !?!!
The temptation was irresistible…….I bit. HR’s very own Joe Pesci rose from my inner soul.
“Funny how? What’s funny about it?” I spat back. Oh this felt good.
Tarquin stuttered “It’s funny, you know. It’s a good story, it’s funny, you’re a funny guy.”
I smelt blood : “You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? HOW AM I FUNNY? “
Tarquin froze. In that moment he represented everything that’s still wrong with the lazy wing of old HR. In his world the recession was being kicked into touch and job confidence was returning. His team was growing and with a business model of filling active applicants with distressed client hiring needs he had plans to make a killing after being forced to downgrade to a world of Tesco clubcards and quaff lager with the petit-boregoise over the last few years. He felt he deserved the inevitable bounceback without trying too hard. He’d dug out his “hiring for dummies in 2007” guide and turned to the chapter on making a margin on dopey HRDs inadequacies in recruitment.
Headline news readers – “Our profession is full of Tarquins and they get on my breasts”.
Whilst opportunity abounds everywhere to effect change and take risks professionally for the good of complex organisational agendas (especially at such a tipping point in society), he favours slapping lipstick on old pigs and pretending they don’t oink oink back. No contextual change in their world, no reaching into 2014 with renewed vigour and insight just same old. In my world the opening few weeks of 2014 have not been kind to me. Not that Tarquin would care but here’s a few reasons why :
- Over the last few years I got to meet a few enlightened disruptive emerging organisations in the Talent space that I think are game changers. I enjoyed their paradoxical thinking, expertise and the way they looked at problems in a way that traditional HR and its mainstream supplier base (typically large-scale BPO and RPO) didn’t. They don’t pay me anything to market them so I’ll hold back on naming but Jesus H Christ, they’ve only just gone mainstream – swallowed up into the huge RPO abyss out there as that sector attempts to pull its bootstraps over basic RPO 1.0 to something that meets the bespoke talent needs of the organisation it faces into. As entrepreneurs who spotted a market opportunity to disrupt it was probably only a matter of time that the deep pockets of those masters of the RPO universe pounced with an offer they couldn’t refuse especially given the huge lack of original thinking in their own business models. Time will tell if this marriage dilutes the effectiveness of the offering or takes the RPOs to a new level.
- A thing called Authenticity came along and waved its angelic wand over us all as a true differentiator for only a short period of time. Then recently, unmasking itself like a Scooby doo baddy, it has reverted to type :-
(1) Diversity and Inclusion has been removed from corporate cupboards as growth was scowled at to be a thing of beauty once again. High profile D&I programmes from BigCo will soon be lauded in the public domain in a manner that would shame the devil. Until the next recession kicks in.
(2) Reward and ER will be exposed as the agenda moves to individualising the psychological contract but they remain wedded in a legacy of below inflationary wage constraint and obsessive market pay points philosophy – missing the point that we’ve downgraded real earnings so much across the piece that monthly wage packets are utterly distracting for swathes of people trying not to be distracted by it.
(3) The Performance Management gurus, despite being confronted by the obvious analysis that the bell curve freakonomics should have gone the way of the dodo, continue to inflict literally millions of hours of wasted time telling Bob in Accounts that he’s just an average Joe. Bob, in response, feels safe in his mediocrity.
(4) HR strategists (no laughing at the back) still look at the inter generational workplace in much the way grumpy old men comment on their kids laziness saying things like ‘back in my day we were just glad to have a Filofax and a bag of coal for a seat’.
(5) Capability in the world of big data may still be growing but if it’s still being fronted by HR men in the executive boardroom with small HR gonads then resistance will win outright. “Our analysis suggests that the golf club hires are amongst our weakest” will be met with “sit down HR monkey and scope out our next party season initiative”. Provocation without insight and a backbone just sounds stupid HR. Man up.
(6) Some HR Recruitment consultants have invented “stabled and salaried” as a new language for their favoured client. Sod where talent comes from, let’s just limit the field and stick with the tried and trusted folk with years of compliance and conformity under their belt.
(7) And finally all over planet HR are those cranfield-scarf wearing denizens of HRBP-world still producing lists of ‘things to do’ in 2014 and calling it a people strategy. Bit of diversity, bit of hiring, bit of firing, heat at 200 degrees and voila it’s a people plan. OD is not a skill set for these folk yet but something you do with a needle and too much crack cocaine.
Finally back at the breakfast networking event, Tarquin giggled nervously and my look let him know I was pulling his leg. He walked nervously to the Darjeeling teabag section and in the second half never said a word.
My inner voice, sounding like a high-octane mobster, shouted out loud “Ya fecker! You almost had him, you almost had him. I wonder about you sometimes, Tarquin. You may fold under serious questioning.”
In a world where we are still not waking up to the opportunity being offered to us, this was 1 petty, small victory in a minor skirmish. The battle for the soul of HR goes on.
Until next time.