What Does HR Have To Unlearn?

Paul Hebert Change, Good HR, HR, Organizational Development, Paul Hebert, Policies, Recognition, Retention, Seat at the Table

I’ve been taking stock of the news about HR lately and trying to find a pattern in it.  I did.

The pattern I found is the new topics about HR today are exactly the same as they were the day before, and the day before that, and the year before that, etc.  In other words – there is nothing new in the news about HR.  Same problems different day/month/year.

  • We are still talking about engagement.
  • We are still talking about performance reviews.
  • We are still talking about talent management.
  • We are still talking about furniture.

I saw a slide presentation on the “Future of HR” and compared that to an article written in 2001 about HR in the future and you know what – the topics were about 70% the same.  Yep… the things we think that will happen in HR in the next 10 years we thought were going to happen in the last 10 years.

I wonder why we are playing Groundhog Day with HR?

Could it be that we think we know things that just aren’t true?

A Test

Below is a problem that most preschool children can solve in about 5-10 minutes.  People with higher education take over an hour.

Below are a series of numbers.  Your task is to use the available information in the list to determine the final number in the list.  Ready… go!  (If you’ve seen this before don’t blurt out the answer.)

8809 = 6

7111 = 0

2172 = 0

6666 = 4

1111 = 0

3213 = 0

7662 = 2

9313 = 1

0000 = 4

2222 = 0

3333 = 0

5555 = 0

8913 = 3

8096 = 5

7777 = 0

9999 = 4

7756 = 1

6855 = 3

9881 = 5

5531 = 0

 2581 = ????

Did you figure it out?

Here’s the answer – 2581 = 2

Huh you say?  Yep… the trick is that each of the numbers after the equal sign is the number of “circles” in the previous 4 numbers.  In the last number, only the 8 has any circles in it (top and bottom) so the answer is 2.

Here’s the list to test it out: 0=1, 1=0, 2=0, 3=0, 4=0, 5=0, 6=1, 7=0, 8=2, 9=1

Now check that against the list… 8809=6…. 0000=4.

It is as simple as counting the number of circles in the previous 4 numbers.

Unlearning is Key

The reason that most preschool children can get this is that they haven’t learned about equations and numbers.  The numbers in the list are simply shapes – they don’t represent numbers like you and I think of numbers.  They quickly pick up the pattern of circles because they are looking at shapes and you and I are looking for math equations.

You need to unlearn that numbers are always associated with some sort of addition/subtraction/multiplication/division problem.  Solving the problem is hard until you disconnect your thinking from what you have learned.

What Does HR Need to Unlearn?

I’m starting to think that the reason we see similar problems and issues arise year after year and decade after decade is that we are still trying to solve those problems in a way that may not make sense.  HR may need to “unlearn” in order to solve the problem.

Here are some things we may need to unlearn in order to move forward…

  1. HR is a department (can it be a service within all the other departments – distributed not centralized?)
  2. HR is responsible for employee engagement/satisfaction/recognition and reward (Isn’t this best handled by individual managers?  Why is HR involved?
  3. HR is responsible for legal issues associated with people (is it HR or Operations issue to deal with OSHA and Safety laws?  Who does it now in your organization?)
  4. HR is responsible for talent acquisition (or should the individual department/manager have that responsibility?)

Those are just a few I could come up with off the top of my head.  I’m sure there are a ton more.

Too often we are held back in solving a problem because we accept what we know as fact when the truth may be that it is only a fact because we keep thinking it is.

I would love to see your thinking on what HR should “unlearn” in order to move forward on the promise the people in an organization hold for the company.