HR’s Big Lie – Best Practices

Tim Sackett HR, Tim Sackett

Oh boy, I’m sure my brothers and sisters who have studied so hard for their SPHRs and PHRs aren’t going to like this.  Best Practices are hurting HR.   I know, I hear you – but, Tim, you’re an idiot – if it wasn’t for HR Best Practices, I wouldn’t have discovered that tracking turnover was important! Really?  Are you sure about that?

Give me a minute to explain – because I was once, just where you are today – believing Best Practices were the be all, end all of making HR better great.

Bestpractice Here’s the issue – Best Practices don’t make HR better, Best Practices make HR the same.  Innovation, creativity and thought leadership make HR better.  So, if all you’re doing is picking up HR Best Practices from your competition, from other industries, from your peers – you aren’t pushing HR forward, you’re actually just pushing HR to the middle.

Let me give you a personal example – I was once leading a HR Generalist function for a division of a large multi-national company.  This company, for its time, was a leading HR shop – industry awards, great metrics, the whole nine yards.  Each quarter they would have all the generalists come together to share “best practices” – with the thought that sharing best practices amongst the divisions will make us stronger as a whole.  Sounds good so far, right?  So, we all come in with our flashy PowerPoints and prepare to wow our peers with our best practices on everything from employee relations tracking tools to succession planning training modules for hiring managers – the majority of which were copied from our last organization that we were at, but with a cut and paste of our current company logo – and the new verbiage changing “employee” to “associate” because we’re now cool and hip and care about our “associates”.

Were these Best Practices? Yes. Were these making parts of the organization better? Yes.  Were these going to lead our organization out of Average?  Well, maybe slightly above average, but only for a short time, until our competition truly came up with something innovative, then we would be back to trying to get back to average.

The problem with instituting Best Practices is they don’t make you a “leading organization”, they make you a “following” organization.  To lead means to innovate, and the only way you get to lead is to let those who work with you fail.

What? Fail!  Yes, fail.

Best Practices don’t come through failure, they come through “good enough” or “better than we had before” – BUT true innovation, true industry leading ideas come through failure. Having something so broken, you start over and build something for your organization that gives you a competitive advantage – something that others will emulate and call “Best Practice”.

It’s okay.  We all did it – we all went after the best practices – doesn’t make you bad, but it will make you average.