Talent Anarchy

don’t predict the future, declare it

Human Resources, like many fields, is at a cross roads where its future is at a disconnect with its past. Many of its reasons for being have become irrelevant, easily outsourced, or reduced to a minor function. Some predict the end of HR; others cling to it. Ultimately, the future of business and work will decide the future of HR.

The Frontier Project, held May 20 and 21 in Omaha, Nebraska had the stated purpose of “Reimagining the Role of Human Resources.” That’s a bold tagline creating huge expectations and it was an interesting mix of 40 or so HR pros, consultants, vendors, and thought leaders who attended.

Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt led the group using an accelerated decision making process. Normally, it’s a technique used to create a decision and action steps for a specific problem. Applying it to the future of a field while still creating individual actions is a bit trickier, but worth the effort.

So, what’s the future of HR? I’m not telling. Not because I took a blood oath of secrecy; because I don’t know. No one does. But here’s a few thoughts I took away from the two days:

Predicting the future is really, really difficult. Particularly for experts because they know exactly how things are in the field, but most innovation and change is ignited from outside the field. If one isn’t careful, focused expertise leads to being blindsided. To prevent getting stuck in what our expertise demonstrated was right, we were told to use our “imagination, not expertise.” Regardless, it’s still difficult. Could you have imagined 2013 in 1993? Could you have imagined 2013 in 2008 before smart phones and social media took off? Another bit of advice for imagining the future: “If it makes sense today, you’re probably not pushing far enough out.”

Even people who think like me don’t think like me. Oddly enough, the future I’m convinced will happen looks different than the futures 39 other people are convinced will happen. We all have biases and, although there’s some overlap, it’s really easy to get stuck in our own reality tunnels.

When people discuss the most important things the field of HR should be focused on it sounds very buzzwordy business-speak. Lots of jargon. Lots of mention of technology, big data, etc. But when people describe what makes their job great it there is a strong emotional and personal connection. I don’t know what that schism means, but it makes me wonder.

The field of HR is so divided between administrative and strategic functions it makes me wonder if we shouldn’t identify them as separate fields. I suspect much of HR’s identity crisis would go away if we acknowledged we’ve been trying to find unifying answers for (at least) two distinct fields. Much as finance and accounting or marketing and sales are split, imagine the issues that would quickly dissolve away if we could allow HR to move in two different directions.

“Us vs them” is a powerful, powerful quirk of human thinking. It carries a lot of judgment and self-righteousness. Be very careful how you define “us” and “them”. Consider the possibility that it might really be “us and them”, or even just “us”.

Some other quick thoughts (mostly shared by others):

HR needs to stop waiting for someone to ask us to do and simply find what needs to be done and get on with it. If it requires permission, make a case for it and sell it. Stop waiting.

Technology/tools can be an enhancement or a distraction from the people/business connection. Like all tools, none are inherently good or bad, but how we use them determines how much they will help or hinder.

Statistics can’t predict the individual. Ever.

Integrate HR into the business processes instead of trying to integrate the business processes into HR.

Use imagination first to play and explore and then apply expertise to make it possible.

The future is scary when you don’t feel you have any control. The future is exciting when you feel you are creating it; it’s threatening when you want things to stay the same (or go back to being how they were); it’s liberating when you see how it could be even better than today.

I need to spend more time kicking ideas around with smart, passionate people. Really can’t do that enough.

 There’s lots more from those two great days that I’m still processing and thinking about. Joe and Jason are threatening to offer it again in the future and I’m excited to see how The Frontier Project evolves. Good, good stuff.

(re)inventing HR: be there

There is a gap. It’s a frustrating space. The space between what HR is today and what it could-be-should-be-must-be. But what is it, where is it, what might it be? That’s for you to decide. It’s always for you to decide. But you never need to decide alone.

May 20 and 21, Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen are hosting/facilitating/inciting The Frontier Project aimed at “Reimagining the Role of Human Resources”. From their site:

Wanted: Innovators, creators, culture hackers, workplace revolutionaries and leaders who can no longer stand idly by as talent is squandered. We can no longer wield our 20th century approaches in attacking 21st century challenges. The stakes are too high. The reinvention of Human Resources can wait no longer. We’re seeking people of courage and vision to join us on a quest of inquiry, discovery and creation. Where will this journey take us?

There are only two possible responses to reading that paragraph:

1. You instantly knew it was for you and you’ve stopped reading this and gone to their site to sign up (or you’ve already signed up and are thinking, “I’ll see you there, Broc.”)

2. You know it’s not for you, you’re really happy with the status quo and thinking about personally being involved in redefining, reinventing, rediscovering HR is a little scary sounding. And a little vague. And it’s probably against policy. And you only attend events to get recertification credits. And you have too much work to do, paperwork to push, filing to get done.

Some may be thinking, “No, I’m in a third category. This sounds cool, I just want to give it a year or so to see if it really takes off.” No, you’re in the second category. What you’re looking for is an annual conference with words like “strategic” and “table” and “innovation” where you get to show off your HR merit badges and let people know how edgy you are. All while you play safe and keep to the party line of the industry approved and acceptably “extreme” area of the status quo.

Here’s my fully transparent disclosure: I have no affiliation with this event, I’m not a sponsor, I’m not a facilitator, I’m not compensated in any way to promote it, and no one has asked me to write about it. What I am is really stinkin’ excited. Too excited to keep it to myself. Jason and Joe always do a phenomenal job and I jumped at the chance to attend. I don’t know what’s going to happen or even what to anticipate, but I am confident that it will be amazing and I need to be there (and you do too). I’m expecting to be a part of a bunch of really smart, creative, passionate people looking for (and finding) ways of playing bigger and doing better. In fact, I’m so excited about attending that I’m going even though it wasn’t in my department’s budget so it’s 100% on my own dime.

I would not miss this. I will not miss this. I will fully be a part of it. And I want you to be a part of it too. If you’re on the fence about it, here’s your push: GO!

Ground zero of the FutureNow of HR. No other place to be.

See you there!