I’m going to let you in to some secrets, just don’t tell anyone you heard this from me….
- Not everybody wants to work flexibly. Some people like being in the office every day.
- There are people who come to work each day for the money. They don’t care who for.
- Some people don’t want to be promoted, their ambition is to be left alone to do their job.
- Self development doesn’t have to be about work. Some people learn all the time without you.
I could go on….
The thing is, just because we think it’s valuable, doesn’t mean it is.
As HR professionals, as professionals in the world of work we have to be incredibly careful that we don’t affirm our own and our professional biases on the workplace. We happily argue that we need to be more flexible, that we need to develop flexible organisations, but then we tell people that we’ve benchmarked our pay and that we are a median to top quartile payer and look with disdain at anyone who suggests they should have more. Why is one more important to us than the other?
We talk about inclusivity, without realising that means we need to create the environment that allows people to value the things that we don’t. That it means we need to accept that not everything will conform to the HR 101 Model Workplace and that we will need to accommodate a genuine breadth of needs and requirements.
Who says the person that needs extra money in order to pay for their family to go on holiday is more unreasonable, less worthy or more indulgent than the person who asks for flexible working to spend a day at week at home with theirs?
Who says that the person that comes in at 9 and leaves at 5 and doesn’t want to attend any of the learning and development courses, but spends their evenings learning different languages, has less potential than their colleague that takes any opportunity to advance their career?
When we think about the world of work, when we think about our organisations and workplaces, we need to check ourselves and ask which lens we’re looking through. Are we really making decisions that allow all to benefit? Or just the ones that we agree with.
So here’s a test for you…..
Think of an area of HR (it could be resourcing, talent development, compensation etc).
Argue why it adds value to the organisation.
Argue why YOU need to do it, not anyone else.
Define the value that is being added by doing it (qualitative and quantitative).
Argue why it slows the organisation down, makes things harder.
Argue why it could be better done by someone else.
Define the total cost of doing the activity (time and budget).
Compare the two.
What did you learn?
People at work will often tell me that, “words are important”. I agree, I think language is important and the power of it is underused in a work context. For some reason, the moment we enter the workplace we seem to lose all sense of the human vocabulary that we would normally use to interact with people and develop an entirely different language.
But that’s not really today’s point, I could write diatribe after diatribe on the stupidity of business speak – but neither you nor I have time. No, what really annoys me is the passive dominant language that people use;
“I know you’re on holiday, but”
I know you’re on holiday, but my issue is more important than your relaxation time….
I am going to assert that whatever piece of nonsense I am propogating is actually something that you would want to read. You cannot possibly have chosen not to read it….
I think this information is important, I don’t give a shit what you think….
I could go on.
Next time you’re talking to someone, writing to someone, thinking of using any words for any purpose, try to think about the reader. Try for once not to write for yourself, think about yourself or your need. Think about the individual, what do they need, want, desire?
If what you’re writing is interesting, useful and helpful enough, the reader will come to you. And for the love of God. Please stop with the passive dominant phrases.
There are few things that get more annoyed than people asserting that HR people need to have “business experience”. It has become one of those arguments that is too easily propagated, without any real challenge – and when placed under scrutiny is easily shown to be wanting.
Firstly, I’m not sure what “the business” is. My instinct is that it refers to a profit or service centre, historically the heart of the organisation. But organisations are changing fast and there are functions that exist that didn’t exist five years ago and that often drive significant improvements in performance, are they the business too? The assertion is outdated and suggests an internal service model which is increasingly becoming obsolete in forward thinking organisations, where collaboration and expertise is key.
Second, it assumes that HR practitioners have no unique skills or experience and that they are simply applying playbook in their organisational context. You hardly ever hear the same allegation levelled at finance or marketing professionals. Does a vet have to have been an animal in order to do their job? In fact, you could as easily argue that every CEO should have worked in HR. People are our most important asset….after all…..
Finally, it misses the real issue. HR practitioners don’t have to work in the business (whatever it is) to be curious about it. You don’t have to be something to understand it. Rather than aspiring for an outdated explanation of an issue, we need to refocus our efforts on the core operations of our organisations, understanding them and the role that people have in delivering success. It doesn’t mean we don’t need to improve, it just means we need to be intelligent about the improvement.
That’s how HR gets better, by being thoughtful, mindful and curious, not by aspiring to do someone else’s job.
It’s time to move on.