The Future of HR, part 19: Do you dare to experiment?

One of the good insights I gained after recent conversations with my external coach: if you want change, do not start at the heart of the organization, but start with experiments on the edges. A too Calvinistic and preaching approach (“Change = pain”, “I have a dream”) is generally not very effective and can even be counterproductive. Easier said than done, of course, and as my coaching subscription has expired, I am back on my own.

Generally for HR experimenting does not come natural. Why? Equality and transparency are high on the list of values of HR. Experiments create inequality, as some are in and some are out, that does not feel good.  Also management and HR often want to go for ‘the ultimate solution’. The global mobility policy that once and for all solves all issues and reduces complexity of everything related to international transfers. The approach to talent management that turns all leaders in the organization to talent champions in less than one year. The performance management system that will put all the problems we had with convincing managers across the world to follow a uniform system to bed forever. And HR is often careful. Experimenting means taking risks, and risk taking is not what people expect of HR.
Recently I heard a stimulating talk of the HR Director of an e-commerce organization. This organization is very data driven. This organization has testing and experimenting in its genes: if you have a good idea, we will test it and if it works we will implement. One of their credo’s (in my own words): Lets base our actions on facts, not opinions (also in HR). Experiments, if well designed, will provide insights that can increase the impact of HR.
Some examples of the experiments currently on my list:

  • Use badges as non-monetary reward for a small group and see if it works (read earlier blog, “This is mayor Tom to ground control“)
  • Create an internal ‘Task Rabbit‘ (the experiment will be in a limited domain) where people can post small tasks where others can help quickly
  • Install the virtual career coach, who can help global talent determine their career direction
  • Experiment with crowdsourcing performance reviews (difficult to find a test area)
  • Totally tailored international transfers (“Tell me what is important for you, and we will arrange it within the available budget’).

More to follow, very interested to hear from others how they experiment, especially in larger organizations.

Note: thanks to Jane Watson for her excellent blog post: “Utopia, Dystopia and the Future of Work”.

Dutch translation of this blog post here.

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