When you think the biggest contribution you have to make to your organisation is a debate on how many days office workers should be in the office, you know you’ve failed as a profession. Sorry, I want to find a nicer way of saying that, but I just can’t.
This isn’t a new thing, just the latest of a long history of internally focused, self obsessed initiatives that have failed to add little value to organisations, society or the communities we serve. Remember when everything was about “disruption”? As I said at the time, nobody wants to be disrupted and the last two years have proved that to be the case. Can’t get on a plane for your holiday because there are no ground staff? Can’t get a train to get to work because of industrial action? Welcome to disruption.
And then of course we were going to blow up performance management and appraisals. Remember that? Because of course, the most existential challenge and issue your organisation faces right now is the number of performance categories you have and the best way to change behaviour is always to change the form…
When I wrote a ten point agenda for change four or five years ago it was more a cathartic reaction to another pointless news story about the profession that came about because of our singular ability to stand for anything other than the protection of our own working practices and self interest. And whilst I come across more and more HR professionals that “get it”, the majority of the profession is still well and truly sucked into it’s own navel.
The instinct of most in the face of criticism is to try to do stuff to be popular, but if our fundamental drive is to be liked we are destined to fail like anyone in a leadership position. One of the confusions we have about our political system is we think politicians are there to do what we want them to do, democracy is about listening to views and opinions not simply doing the thing that most people say they want. When you do that you become insular and so focused on the internal zeitgeist that you lose sight of the greater purpose – such is the case in many organisations too.
And that is where too many HR functions are right now, with not a single eye on the outside, the big macro changes in the economy, in society, that will provide challenges for our organisations tomorrow, next year and for many years to come. Those are the debates we should be raising with our executive teams and boards, those are the things that demonstrate our true value as a profession, those are the things that will fundamentally make a difference to the long term organisational success.
I saw a stat this weekend that really shook me. In the UK, only 59% of the adult population have incomes high enough to pay tax. Ask yourself a question. What is your organisation doing to tackle that?