The power of five

Five years ago, I posted my first blog post on this site. One of the worst kept secrets in HR blogging is that I used to run a different site with a little more “artistic freedom”..…but enough about that for now. Five years is a pretty long time in this modern world, things change and move on. So what’s changed in that time and what has (maybe unsurprisingly) stayed the same?

The mystery of performance management – ironically, the first post I wrote here was about the need to take a more human approach in performance management. So is the fact that corporate after corporate is rushing to deliver the headline grabbing news that they’re ditching their annual appraisals evidence that this is happening? Absolutely not. It’s all a load of bull and they’ll be silently reintroducing some sort of system in the next two years. The point isn’t that you don’t need any system, it’s that you need a human system. Two very different points with two very different outcomes. VERDICT: NO CHANGE

The death of Human Capital Management – Not long after my first post, I wrote an attack on Human Capital Management. It was probably the first post that I wrote that caught the attention. It’s a phrase and a term that is only beaten into second place in the hall of shame by Employee Engagement (more of that later). HCM and human capital metrics are as 1980s as my fashion sense….and neither needs to be subjected to the masses. Fortunately, big data has replaced HCM as the numptiness of choice. VERDICT: DEAD AND BURIED

Ethical business, trust and authenticity – A theme over the last five years has been around ethics, trust and authentic business management. Don’t get me wrong, I”m an unashamed capitalist…BUT that doesn’t mean I think we need to rip a second a**e in each of our employees. For too long big, corporate FTSE100 businesses have lied and lied and lied some more. The string of corporate failures over this time have shown us that this is’t rhetoric, but simple truth. And in return we’ve seen and increasingly humble and apologetic approach. A new dawn? Don’t you believe it. Just a pause, the vultures are circling higher than before, but don’t believe they won’t be back. VERDICT: CEASEFIRE

The engaged employee – I said I’d be back to it, so why the surprise? Engagement is simply the most poisonous and frankly dangerous management concept of the last ten years. It makes the Ulrich Model look like a warm, soapy cuddle in the bath. Put simply, in the time that we have been talking about employee engagement, the happiness of employees has decreased. That’s not me talking, that’s a fact. And yet we persist. That’s either stupidity, or insanity. VERDICT: STILL BREATHING, BUT FIRST UP AGAINST THE WALL

Our profession and our professional body – Ok, so I know this one is going to be thrown back in my face *assumes the position*, but I have more confidence in both the HR professional and the CIPD than I’ve had since I graduated back in 1864. We’re generally talking about the right things, we’re willing to have an open debate and discussion and we are hearing voices from outside of the small select group of organisations that previously dictated the agenda. It’s promising, really promising. But not time to pop the champagne just yet. VERDICT: ON THE UP

I’m not going to dwell on HR, social technology and the like. You can read that in countless free “books”, but five more years? I doubt it. By then I’ll be transmitting direct in to your brains. So enjoy the freedom whilst you have it my friends…

I’m saving the good stuff for then.

HCM A depressing blast from the past

Nothing says “past it” than a term that I came across yesterday for the first time in a long while. Human Capital Management. The words in themselves are enough to make my stomach turn. I know that linguistically it isn’t a million miles away from Human Resource Management, but the latter is a broad church, where as HCM has connotations that I find really quite disturbing.

Whereas the origins of the term date back to economic theory, it has been hijacked by the over willing, over eager consultants as a means of trying to squeeze metrics and measurement into everything. Thus driving “economic value” of the “human capital”. I’m not against measurement per se, but I do think we are on a hiding to nothing with it.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”

True, but also not so.

Because in the end, we are dealing with people, not buttons or levers and therefore we have to understand that much of our measurement will be qualitative. The example given yesterday was recruitment. I know quite a bit about recruitment metrics, I wrestled with them for years. Measure time to fill? Ok that tells you something….but what do you really want to know? My guess is the questions are more,

– Are we easily attracting the right people?

– If not why not?

Does time to fill answer that? No,but it is harder to measure what we want to know and therefore we measure the process, because that is easier and as HR people we are happier in the process than in nebulous concepts.

The other piece that rankles with the whole issue of HCM is the view that labour costs are just that….costs. As I said yesterday in the conversation, flip it around and it becomes investment. As you could buy a very cheap computer system or a very expensive one, you can also have cheap or expensive labour. Without knowing the effectiveness or the performance of both, you know nothing (and measuring that is almost impossible). If the cheaper computer system is causing employees to be less productive or is crashing then the actually cost of it could be higher.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, humans are wonderfully unique and unpredictable. We should be embracing that and looking at a more humanistic approach to managing and understanding them, not trying to convert them into something they are nor – measurable assets.

For me that’s why HCM deserves to be confined to the garbage can of failed approaches to people management…if there is still any room left in there.