Stop Doing Stupid Things: HR and Talent Edition

Steve Boese Bad HR, Benefits, Employee Engagement, HR, Learning and Development, Steve Boese

There are many aspects and elements of HR and Talent Management that are really hard. Identifying future leaders, determining succession strategies, developing and implementing that “just right” compensation plan that simultaneously helps retain employees while also rewarding your best performers fairly—these are tough, tough challenges. Not to mention the just-about-daily slog to find, engage, and hire increasingly hard-to-find candidates with the skills your organization requires.

Yes, these are all hard things. But there are also plenty of opportunities in HR and Talent to create time and space to concentrate on these hard things by spending less time and effort on things that are or should be easy. Except for maybe Stephen Hawking, at least some part of all our jobs is actually kind of simple and routine and should be hard to mess up. But mess these simple parts up we do, and then spend time, effort and mental cycles on things that really don’t contribute much of anything toward what should be our goals in HR/Talent—finding the best people and creating an environment for them to succeed.

Here are just a few, off-the-top-of-my-head examples of this phenomenon, where our organizations seem to be unable to resist, well, being stupid:

1. You offer an experienced new hire—say someone with 20+ years in the workforce—your standard, entry-level 10 days of annual vacation, and that only begins accruing after six months on the job. Now this new hire has to explain to her family why she can’t join them on their annual family vacation in July.

2. You position the latest cost-reducing/cost-shifting change to your benefits program (like some kind of Rx drug carve out or a shift to a high-deductible, lower-premium medical plan), as something designed with employee health and well-being as the driver, and not for what it really is—another step towards bailing on benefit coverage altogether and pushing everyone on to a public exchange.

3. You make every employee with a Twitter account or a personal blog add the disclaimer “Views are my own, and do not represent those of my employer” to their profiles. Then you continually ask these same employees to share company jobs, press releases, and other “positive” company news.

4. Your organization expects employees to be always “reachable”—after hours, on the weekends, even when on vacation. After all, everyone has access to email at all times and just about everywhere in the world, thanks to smartphones and ubiquitous wifi. But what about when an employee asks for a few hours off on a Tuesday afternoon to see their kid’s school play?

5. You expect that employees take primary or even sole responsibility for their own career development, while simultaneously and paradoxically lowering training budgets and resources, and expecting employee loyalty and allegiance.

I am sure we could keep coming up with more of these kinds of examples, but I think you get the idea.

More years back than I care to remember, at the apex of the “business process re-engineering” management theory craze, I attended a seminar that was presented by one of the top “re-engineering” thought leaders of that era—three and a half hours of presentations on models, frameworks, process mapping and re-design, etc. Ponderous stuff. And sort of a waste of everyone’s time until the very conclusion of the seminar when the expert thought leader shared the only bit of wisdom that I still remember today.

The secret of success with process re-engineering?

Stop doing stupid things. That’s it. Stop doing stupid things.