The consumerisation of #HR

We’ve made the world of work far too complicated. We’ve over engineered, over intervened and created a myriad of artificial constructs that add neither value nor protection. Over the years I’ve written time and time again about the need to declutter, to reduce the number of processes and procedures to make it simple.

The brilliant Josh Bersin summarises the arguments better than I can here, making the very important point that simple is actually harder to do than complex. This isn’t about being basic, it is about being sophisticated.

I’d take it one step further, it is about the consumerisation of HR management.

When I speak at conferences and talk about these themes, how we are doing far too much and confusing employees, I regularly get people come up to me afterwards and thank me. Not for enlightening them or teaching them something that blows their socks off, but for reminding them why they came in to the profession and giving them reassurance that they’re not mad.

Reminding them that it is OK to be focussed on the end-user.

You see, too often we praise the complex. We hold it up as an example of the development of the profession to heights before unknown. We litter the pages of our publications, the stages of our conferences with examples of HR interventions that most employees don’t understand, don’t want to be part of and don’t see the point of. And we hold them to high acclaim. Then we talk about how we need to demonstrate the value that HR adds.

We have become the coders of the management world, praising beautiful code over user experience.

But what if we were to focus our efforts on making the end-user, the employee, the primary driver of our interventions, of our services. What if we designed for them, rather than for us? What if we created value by providing products and services that people wanted, rather than they were told they needed.

What if we excited, entertained and enthralled?

I can tell you that any manager, any employee, any human would ask for simple people management processes and practices they could understand, communicate and apply. They’d ask for speed, transparency and accuracy. Like we would too.

If we want to really add value and demonstrate our worth within the organisational framework, we need to work harder on being simpler, not more complex. And focus on delivering what employees really want, not what we think will impress our peers.

Then, maybe then, we’d be seen in a whole different light.


  1. broc.edwards · October 20, 2014

    Absolutely. We hear a lot about the candidate experience, retail talks about the customer experience, IT focuses on the user experience, but not enough action is taken around creating the employee experience. Not employee experience like everyone gets a lollipop and a trophy but an employee experience that makes it easy to do great work they are proud of for a company they support. It’s been said that the customer experience rarely exceeds the employee experience (CX<EX) but not enough businesses and HR groups take it to heart.

    • Neil · November 22, 2014

      Thanks Broc, I completely agree with you. The lack of serious focus on employee experience is a real gap within our thinking.

  2. Gareth Jones · October 20, 2014

    Refreshing words. I just saw the quote “It’s not the employer who pays the wages. The employer only handles the money. It’s the customer who pays the wages. You could also say “it’s not the company that makes the product or service. The company only provides the tools. The employees make the product/service. You’re post reminds me of a great book – Insanely Simple. Yes sadly. It’s One of the “Apple” books, but it’s good. A reminder of how daily we over complicate things. And as bersin points out, complexity is easier. After all, it creates jobs, no?!

    • Neil · November 22, 2014

      Simplicity is the future, I genuinely believe that. Making things easier for employees rather than harder is the new black.

  3. Todd Stubbings · October 21, 2014

    Thanks for raising some valid points Neil: “We’ve over engineered, over intervened [some would say ‘getting in the way’ of business] and created a myriad of artificial constructs that add neither value nor protection [degree of complexity is no measure of effectiveness or business value if no one understands it but the HR genius who invented/bought/stole it].” My guess is there are a lot more businesses out there with more Simpletons (yes, some are leaders/managers) in them than Geniuses.

    • Neil · November 22, 2014

      True, it was a slightly tongue in cheek reference to geniuses!

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