“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” Margaret J. Wheatley Life is full of transitions: moving, changing companies, accepting new positions, taking on new projects, initiating new relationships, establishing new personal routines, and starting a new year! Transitions allow us to look backward to learn and peek forward to improve. As we move from 2016 to 2017, it is useful to reflect on HR&r, past and anticipate resolutions for the future. 2016 has been a politically and socially volatile year (e.g., Brexit, Trump, refugees). It has also been a year with HR insights around technology, employee wellbeing, analytics for HR choices and HR information for business success, culture and its emerging role, leadership for investors, and so forth. So, what are some of my resolutions for HR for 2017?
- Continue to learn. It is exciting and humbling to be in a profession that continues to progress. My personal commitment is to have 20 to 30 percent new insights every 2 years. That sounds easy, but is very demanding and requires constant observing, questioning, exploring, and experimenting. Just like my cell phone has evolved to a smart phone to a computer device and from a bulky instrument to something I carry in my pocket to something I could wear on my wrist, I know that some of the HR ideas that were right 10, 20, or 30 years ago have evolved. I resolve to learn by relying less on what has worked and more on the questions of what needs to work in the future.
- Focus on the business. This is not a new insight but it is so easy to define success through our own experience. I spent a day recently looking at everyone, shoes trying to see how many people wore the shoes that I thought were worth buying. Not one person!!! When I assume that my choices are shared by others, I live inside my personal cocoon. I need to see others through their world. Likewise, HR is not about HR, but about the business. I resolve to focus less on HR and more on business and how HR can impact business results.
- Build on the positive. Some prophets tell their followers they need to repent or they are going to hell. Others tell their followers how to get to heaven. I hope that in HR we can focus on the positive and help others find their way to positive personal and business impact. It is distracting and gets tiring to spend time arguing with the naysayers who bemoan what is wrong with HR. I hope to be among those who envision where HR can be a force for good and deliver value to employees, organizations, customers, investors, and communities. I resolve to be less distracted by naysers and shape a positive future about what can be.
- Navigate the HR paradoxes. In our research, we found that the personal HR competence most impacting business results was the navigation of paradox, or being able to manage the tension or two apparent contradictions.
In 2017, I envision some fascinating paradoxes that merit exploration:
- Care for the individual (talent) and create competitive organizations (culture). HR needs to manage personal wellbeing and organization competitiveness. For 20 years, the profession has tilted towards talent and may need to rebalance to organization.
- Use of technology for efficiency and connection. Technology (digitalization, robots, cloud) will continue to drive efficiency and innovation in HR. But, we should not forget the need for personal connection that binds us emotionally to each other and our organizations. Social isolation is more correlated with mortality than smoking, drugs, obesity or other behavioral problems. Technology needs to connect people who might otherwise be isolated.
- Responding with speed and patience. No question that change requires response; but patience encourages judgment and wisdom of that response. HR needs to encourage rapid response, but also patience which may lead to better judgment.
- Relying on both structured and unstructured information. Good HR relies on analytics, and much of the data for analytics comes structured data which produces statistical insights. But, research has shown that 80% of the data in our lives is unstructured observation and experience. HR needs to use both structured and unstructured data to provide insights.
- Serve those inside and outside the organization. HR, value is clearly about employee wellbeing, but also about how that wellbeing impacts customers and investors.
I resolve to allow myself to live with paradox, to be willing to diverge when I tend to focus and to converge when I tend to ramble. I could go on, but that would be rambling. I have said and believe & this is a great time to be in HR&, but the greater time lies ahead. So, what are some of your HR resolutions for 2017? Let’s hope we can collaborate to make them happen.