It is time for some guerrilla HR!

Tom Haak

The last weeks I was in several workshops with HR teams, reviewing HR trends and the creative use of these trends to increase the impact of HR. A common issue was: how do we convince our boss and our management teams that it is time for a new innovative approach? Some thoughts about ‘guerrilla HR’.

1. Do not discuss everything at the top of the organisation

Some people feel the need to discuss everything with their boss. Some bosses like this. Generally, it is better not to discuss too much, especially when you have some revolutionary plans. Stay low, and keep your plans very broad and general. Nobody will disagree with “We have to increase the retention of our high potentials”, “We need to hire the best” and “We want to be the employer of choice”.

2. Look for change at the edges of the organisation, not the core

The best breeding ground for change and innovation is often at the edges of the organisation. Do not start at the core; do not aim for top-down changes (although they are often advocated). Entrepreneurs and innovators try to stay away from HQ. Look for these people if you are looking for allies to try something new.

3. Experiment

Do not stay to long in the planning phase, if you have a good idea. Look for a team where you can experiment. You can learn a lot from trial and error, and after some initial experiments you can improve your approach. If you are successful, it will become a lot easier to sell your ideas. Now you have some relevant data to substantiate your plan.

4. Work with a small team

In guerrilla HR it is not different from real guerrilla: you can move a lot faster with a small team of people you trust. Make sure the team is diverse though, as you must be able to deal with obstacles along the way.

5. Surprise!

A well-known guerrilla tactic is surprise. Instead of developing a plan on paper and discussing this in various meetings, and making no progress at all, you just develop your idea and implement it as quick as possible. Especially in social media this works well. It takes no time to create a global community or to develop an online magazine.

6. Look for foreign support

HR guerrilleras need support. Some of your outside partners might be willing to support you, as they are interested in organisations where their solutions are implemented. They can help with funding or by providing some temporarily support

7. Involve some high potentials

In most organisations there are many high potentials who are eager to contribute to innovative projects, on top of their normal work. They can bring the skills you need, and they can take care of some guerrilla marketing as well. Do not ask for permission to involve the high potentials, just make helping you part of the hipo development program.

8. The art of camouflage

You can cover your innovative approach with a more traditional overlay.

Example: you want to make upward appraisal part of your performance reviews. What do employees think of their boss? Do not call your plan: “Introduction of upward appraisal”, but “Improving the global performance management process” or “Benchmarking our global performance management process”. Under the hood you than introduce 360 feedback. Surprise!

I am convinced it is time for some guerrilla HR. The speed of change is increasing and HR has no time to lose. Success, and please, stay away from any violent or disrespectful tactics.


Use the checklist!


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