HR is UX

Over the past few years, I’ve written repeatedly about simplicity being fundamental to the future of organisational management. I’m not alone, and increasingly there is a trend to recognise this. You know that when Deloitte starts referring to it as an emerging trend that it is no longer niche.

And whilst it is well acknowledged that simplicity is harder to achieve than complexity. I think, simplicity is…..well a little simple.

For me, the future of HR management lies in a concept that is often attributed to technology, but has as much, if not more, to do with human interaction. I’m talking about “user experience” or UX a term that didn’t really exist in this way until the mid 90s.

But UX and the approach to it can inform our HR and people management practices both in our use of technology and in the wider approach to employees.

It’s Sunday at time of writing and I’m feeling a bit lazy, so let’s borrow from Wikipedia the main benefits of UX based design,

• Avoiding unnecessary product features
• Simplifying design documentation and customer-centric technical publications
• Improving the usability of the system and therefore its acceptance by customers
• Expediting design and development through detailed and properly conceived guidelines
• Incorporating business and marketing goals while protecting the user’s freedom of choice

Anyone arguing with any of those? No, I thought not. But do we really practice it?

Think about when you open a new technology product. Let’s take an iPhone. The design, the presentation, the simplicity that belies the complexity beneath, the configurability and personalisation, the navigation and experience. Think of the excitement you felt the first time you saw or experienced one.

When smart phones came in to existence, nobody could see the point. The seemed like an expensive, laborious waste of time and money. But in time we’ve come to find them an essential that we can’t live without.

Now there’s a thing…..

The blame game

I understand your hurt,
And your disapproval.

I understand why you want to bring this to my attention,
And I’m grateful.

I understand why you’re upset,
And and I can see your anger.

I understand why you feel we could do better,
And how we could be more.

So I ask you.

What did you do recently that could have been better?
Where could you have done more?

When did you upset someone?
And how did you deal with their anger?

What did you learn about how you could be better?
And how did you take that?

And, most importantly, how do you feel,
When you hear disapproval?

Each time you complain.

Each time you forcefully make your views heard.

It’s unique.
For you.

But if you’re the person on the phone.
Behind the desk. In the office.

If you’re the person paid to listen.

You’re just another one.

Nothing special.

So what could YOU do. To make that experience difference?

To make it beyond the ordinary.

To really make YOURSELF stand out.

I. Am. Human.

Following the last two conferences I’ve spoken at, I’ve received the following unsolicited feedback,

“You don’t speak like an HR person”

On both occasions, I’ve assumed it was a compliment and taken it as the best bit of feedback I could receive. I hope I don’t look like an HR person either (no tissues in this cardigan baby) but there is always room for improvement.

The serious point here is that language is important. The words we use, the tone we use, the way in which we communicate both verbally and in writing. They matter.

I don’t care what the intention is, if the language sends out a different message. That’s what people infer.

You tell people what they can’t do. Why not tell them what you want them to do?

You tell people what will happen if they don’t behave. Why not tell them what will happen if they do?

We use a whole vocabulary that means nothing to the vast majority of human beings. A dictionary of terms that have been created to make us feel “strategic” as we “partner” with the business to deliver “value adding interventions” to maximise our “human capital” and drive “employee engagement”.

Or instead we could work with you to make this place better, you happier and the business successful.

But then. We might have to explain how.

Which would require us to think. And not produce another strategy document.

Which could prove tricky.

I am not Human Resources. I am human.

Feedback….it’s a gift…..

I once worked in an organisation that was big on feedback. It was hardcore. We had a manager join us from another company and when it came to the annual appraisal, she posed the work equivalent of, “does my bum look big in this?”. She asked,

“Is there anything that you think I need to know? That I could be doing better?”

BOOM!

Two weeks later, she was a shaking wreck on the floor. Admitting to me, “I didn’t actually want them to tell me!”.

And that’s the thing. We live in a feedback culture, but so much of the feedback is utterly pointless. I can’t order a product now without getting a request to rate the service, the packaging or the lumbar posture of the delivery person. But does any of this matter, does anyone care and does it make any difference?

I’m no role model here. I’m the guy that reacted to the feedback that I was “low in empathy” by responding, “Do I give a sh*t what they feel?”, but it strikes me that there are two types of reaction to feedback.

Active and inactive.

Yes, it’s as simple as that.

Either do something with it, or don’t bother asking. Don’t make the people sweat it over how to break it to you that you’re a closet Nazi, unless you’re willing to change your ways. Don’t make them lose sleep over how to tell you that you have personal space issues unless you’re willing to…..take a step back.

So before you go through the motion and commission that 360, before you ask those poor suckers that have to work with you what they feel, before you go through the motions…..ask yourself this:

What is the worst thing that I could hear that would really upset me? And would I be willing to accept and act on it, if I heard it said?

Feedback is important. Feedback is a gift. But it can also be the silent, smelly fart in the elevator.

Ask if you want to know. Don’t ask if you don’t.

But never just pretend you care.