30 years in HR, part 16 (and last): glimpse into the future

This is the last edition of “30 years in HR”. Time to move on. From next week I will start with a new series, “The future of HR”. Some first observations, based on the last 30 years (and nearly two months).

1. Change is difficult, and will remain difficult

The ability of people to change, is continuously over-estimated. HR often fuels these expectations. How can we transform poor people managers into empathic coaches? (preferably in one week). How can we transform obedient employees into entrepreneurs? (preferably obedient entrepreneurs). How can we transform high-level technical experts into global account managers? (Take your time, results are only expected next year). HR should temper high expectations. Old habits are very difficult to change, even when there is a burning platform (e.g. all the fruitless efforts to tackle obesity).

2. New organisational formats will have to evolve

The theme: from hierarchical to network organizations has been around for a while. But implementation is difficult. Current generations of C-level executives have grown up in traditional organizations, and it is difficult for them to imagine how an effective organization can be different. At the same time the change is unavoidable. Outsourcing is now common practice. More and more people are self employed.

3. HR to change from followers to leaders

The times are ideal for HR to have a big impact on the organization. But HR should step up to the plate.
Organizations are struggling to create the conditions where people can flourish and give there best to create an exiting future. Organizations are struggling to accelerate from hierarchy to network. HR, with their knowledge on people, organizations and change management, is ideally positioned to take the lead in realizing the necessary changes.

4. High expectations of the millennials

Gen-Y, millennials and the generations to come can contribute a lot. When we give them room, many necessary changes will be implemented more smoothly. Also a perfect role for HR: creating room and challenges for the next generations.

5. The social media revolution has just started

In 1994, 18 years ago, I had my first experience with internet, and in 1995 I got my first mobile phone. In the last years the use of social media has accelerated. Organizations are wondering how to use this development for their benefit. Tackling the challenge with traditional approaches (“We need a Social Media policy”, “We should ask Communications to develop a plan”) is a dead-end street. Again, big chance for HR, as recruitment and marketing are areas at the front of social media usage.

6. Let’s finally get rid of “One size fits all”

“One size fits all” or the socialistic approach to HR is difficult to get rid of. HR often has its roots in “Rules & Regulations”, and with these roots it is difficult to promote diversity and segmentation. HR can learn here from other disciplines (as marketing and advertising). Modern advertising agencies develop several versions of their marketing material and test on-line what works for what group. The yellow version might work for women over 50, the red version for men who own a Harley Davidson etc. Then they use the different versions to approach the different target groups. How can HR transfer these lessons, e.g. to learning and development, or career management?

7. Dilemma reconciliation becomes a critical competence

There are many dilemma’s we are confronted with. We want entrepreneurial behavior and we want to reduce risks. We want standardization and we want tailor made solutions for our clients. We want to be successful in our work and at home. We want a network organization and people aligned behind a vision globally. Often seemingly conflicting objectives, when seen as opposite poles on one dimension. Fons Trompenaars and others have introduced dilemma reconciliation. A method to search for approaches where both objectives can be met. It looks easy, but to become an experienced practitioner requires determination and stamina (and a team that is open for the practice).  For more on dilemma reconciliation watch this video of Fons Trompenaars on YouTube.

On my personal future? I hope to add at least another 15 years to my track record.The times are very interesting, in fact more interesting every day.


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