HR Stuck in Pilot Mode

This should come as no surprise, but the HR department is crucial to the operations of any business. Identifying and onboarding the people responsible for delivering key objectives, keeping current employees engaged and working productively and ensuring all employees receive necessary training and development are just some of our more high profile functions. What is surprising, though, is how few HR professionals realize their value and their power to drive change.


All too often, I have seen HR professionals from a range of companies and industries hesitant to implement major company-wide changes. Rather than committing to a new technology solution and enforcing its use throughout the company, many HR teams are in a constant cycle of pilot programs. They try a system out, and if there is resistance, they’ll ditch the solution and pilot another one. While trying before buying does have its merits, when HR is stuck in pilot mode and unable to commit to one system, it ends up wasting a huge amount of time and resources and lowers their credibility. 


With the amount of information available online, HR professionals should be able to find the information they need about any potential new solution. From product descriptions and case studies to live demos, everything needed to make an educated decision is easily available. Why then go through the trouble of implementing a solution on a temporary basis and training teams on its use, only to do the same thing a few months later? Even when a pilot program proves to be successful, many still are hesitant to push it over the line and officially roll it out. This trial-and-error process simply doesn’t occur in other business units; if the CFO says to use Concur for travel and expenses, no one would use Excel just because they don’t like Concur.


HR certainly has the knowledge, skills and opportunity to drive change, so why aren’t we driving more changes? As the value of HR continues to rise, I challenge all HR managers to take that stand. Find a solution that promises to improve how key tasks are done, and instead of doing yet another pilot program, just run with it. Even if it isn’t popular at first, people will grow to accept it. Just consider all of the incarnations of Facebook over the years. Had Marc Zuckerberg listened to user feedback about every change, the site never would have grown to what it is today.


For another example, think about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end work from home policies as a way to improve productivity and engagement. How many people would have the nerve to do that? She certainly knew it wouldn’t be popular, but at the end of the day, she calculated the risks and made a decision. Whether that is the right or wrong decision, the important thing is that she made it. And that is the only way to shake things up and get results – to take the risks that may be unpopular but are based on a combination of available knowledge and pure gut instinct.


I was trained that HR is responsible for leading change throughout an organization. From my experiences, though, too many in our industry are happy to keep the status quo and do anything to avoid rocking the boat. But HR is all about talent – and the way individuals are found, engaged, trained and developed continues to evolve over time. To be most successful, HR must change as well. The first step is to end the stream of pilot programs and truly steer their organizations to the next level.

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