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Change Lies at the Heart of Human HR

Yes, I am aware that I have just put the word “Human” in front of the acronym for Human Resources…. I just wanted to make a point.

Not everything that we do at work is always in keeping with our basic nature.

We go to work with the best of intentions, but often end up far nearer the lowest common denominator than we would like. We don’t find the time to accomplish lofty goals, we fear rejection too much to try new things, and we shrink from the task of challenging the norm. It is sad to say, but even being “human” in the industry of human resources is often a significant challenge.

In a world where artificial intelligence is knocking at the door, I wonder what being “human” actually means. For me, one definition might be found in a constant that has been with our species for countless millennia:

We have survived because we have felt compelled to change.

That is until we start working and are strapped into a corporate straightjacket.

The moment we walk through the office door, all sorts of pressures conspire to suffocate our instincts and obscure our common sense. As I talk to my HR Director candidates, they often tell me stories of how they have encouraged their colleagues to flourish and grow. Yet, you always get the sense that they wish they could have done more.

They are tasked with transforming an organisation, which seems to make fantastic business sense, but they often present it as a herculean mission of influencing and persuasion. Too many boards still see fundamental change as a risk to the bottom line, but it is only within the more fluid boundaries of change that people have space to grow and fulfil their potential. When HR are the change-makers, they are able to facilitate growth.

However, hand in hand with change lurks the possibility of failure.

Failure is acceptable when you are trying to manufacture a widget, but when the careers of hundreds or thousands of people are in play, potential failure seems that bit more daunting. To change something, you often have to break it and put it back together in a different way – there is always the possibility that you won’t be able to, and that is why some HR practitioners tend to favour the status quo. Initiating change could lead to a brave new dawn, but it might also ensure that dawn never comes again.

When the HR organisation realises that failures are simply part of the process, they will be bolder and more ambitious in the path that they choose. The stories of the most successful HR Directors are peppered with anecdotes when they “tried this” or “crashed and burned” at that. Each attempt simply brings them closer to making that breakthrough.

Seeking to change the lives of those around you is no simple undertaking, but it is something that lies at the very heart of any successful HR agenda.

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