HR Hoarders

I have recently been on the road at conferences and client visits and I have observed a recurring theme: there are a lot of HR Hoarders out there, both physical and intellectual. Take a few minutes and look around your workspace. Do you still have binders, folders and files full of old data? Maybe you’ve modernized, and they are digitized and in the cloud. More importantly, are these just iterations of a process your company (or you) has been doing for the last few years (or decades) that sits proudly on your bookshelf as a testament to your HR expertise? I still encounter too many HR professionals who are entrenched in the mindset of building and optimizing 30-year-old HR practices instead of proactively anticipating the human capital needs for tomorrow’s workplace.

Technology is changing at a blistering place and the barriers to entry for new businesses are collapsing rapidly. A small team of innovative people and a few engineers can create products that can quickly move into a category and dominate. Would anyone have predicted that a company like  Zynga could have entered the gaming market and built a market cap comparable to gaming giant Electronic Arts in just a few years? Your company’s market category, size, age, etc. do not matter. HR needs to be leading new ways of thinking about talent through all aspects of the employee lifecycle. Fortunately, I do encounter the emerging HR professionals who understand the value of innovation, technology, and simplicity. They bring fresh air into the workplace, clearing the stale musty air lingering around the piles of binders, hard drives full of old unreadable data and HR process clutter that have choked the life out some organizations.

HR hoarding interventions are needed. I recently spoke with an HR exec who landed at a growing startup using technology to attack an old business model. They were brought in for their big company experience to help scale the company. I was looking forward to hearing about an exciting business. Instead, I was treated to a virtual tour of a pile of HR binders and performance management tomes. They led with how they brought HR process to bear just like they did at their last company. I envisioned them driving down to their rented storage unit chock full of HR mementos and plucking a good looking binder from the bottom of the pile. With a simple “find and replace,” viola, their work was done.

Was it great work? I am sure. Would other HR professionals think so? Of course they would. My frustration, too many HR professionals perfecting yesterday’s processes. Here was a chance to do a “clean install” and improve on the past without all of the clutter. Why not tie into their own company’s technology innovations and write a simple app for capturing real time feedback in a project based public wiki? Why bog this speedboat down with equipment from the Queen Mary? It’s spring; take the time to clean out your physical and intellectual workspace. Unload the clutter, innovate, capitalize on affordable technology and simplify to make it a great year.

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