HR in a number of songs part 2

Fashion is the second thing HR is all about. Not in clothing but in mind-set.

For the last 30 years, HR has been looking to justify its existence on every possible front. In this search for relevance, HR has bounced from one fashionable idea or practice to another. Every couple of months, there’s a new tool, process, program, strategy or technology backed by an HR guru promising solutions and impact. In this quest for the Holy Grail, HR has been to the moon and back, crying foul whenever the business, armed with data and numbers, dismantled the air castles HR had so diligently built.

Some delusions have continued to live a life on their own. Today, some of the talent management but certainly all of the performance and reward practices fail to deliver on their promise. Their impact on business performance is minimal at best but always questionable and at a disproportionate cost. By November, every HR department will go in hibernation, lasting up to 5 months. HR will waste precious time and attention from both employees and managers to go through the yearly merit and bonus cycles, draining goodwill, motivation, engagement and performance on all levels.

As long as the business fails to integrate all the people practices in the business itself, thereby eliminating HR’ process and program ownership, HR will diligently go through the motions, doing incredible amounts of busy work with disappointing results. In parallel, as long as HR believes the Holy Grail is theirs to find, it will be the victim of fashion. Unintentionally, it will continue to work on a variation of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

There is however no reason to be pessimistic about HR’s future. Never before have so many people taken HR to heart. Never before has the business been so keen to take ownership. Never before has experience been so rich. The only way is up. HR will have to become a full-fledged business function, mastering data driving sustainable initiatives. Outgrowing the flavour of the day mindset, the HR popcorn programs and the tribal HR speak would make a great start.

There’s an incredible amount of songs with the word fashion in their title. Maybe the most fitting to this article is ‘Dedicated follower of fashion’ by the Kinks. You might argue Lady Gaga or David Bowie do a better job at singing the praises of fashion. I leave that entirely up to you.

I wanted to leave you with something more cheerful. One of the first student jobs I had was at a gas station along the highway. Working all week for a Texaco check with the sun beating down my neck. Not everything in the song mimics my history (I was actually working for Shell) but the upbeat atmosphere does. Besides, the video is just heart-warming. The chorus is just the best. Enjoy! You might have to skip a commercial.

Telephone road by Steve Earle


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