Dear HR speakers, presenters, "gurus," "thought-leaders,"
Look, I get it. We're the worst. We focus too much on transactional HR. We have difficulty thinking "outside the box." We don't push the envelope. We aren't creative. We have trouble being the HR you want to see. But "Sally HR" has become a trope that's overused regardless of the truth.
I recently tweeted that to be in HR is to be always told that you can't do anything without your leadership on board. And a conversation with the fantastic Katrina Kibben reinforced the idea (as well as how awesome it is to write "dear" letters) that too many of us in HR feel beaten down, repressed, and adjacent to our leadership.
To be in HR is to be constantly told that you can't do anything without your leadership being on board.— Christine Assaf (@HRTact) January 31, 2020
Imagine HR unleashed. What would it look like? How would it function?
It's interesting that for a field that attempts focuses on how to engage humans in a way that is authentic, real, and gives a sense of belonging, HR itself feels removed. As if it always has to prove it's worth.
I'll save my opinions on why I think HR is treated in the way they are. (My theory is that some of it stems from being a female-dominated field with a secretary-like historical background giving a perception of docile-like qualities and thus mirrors how we treat females in the workplace - that's a blog for another day).
Instead, I'd like to challenge "visionaries" and "futurists" who earn their nickles on advising the HR field to rethink their tactics and strategy here. As HR progresses into a new iteration (automation, the aging workforce, modern workforce, continued globalization, and market demands), we see a shift in how HR functions and what it means to be "Sally HR." My theory is that HR will look more like Organizational Development and less like personnel. As self-service and tech progress, there's less need for the trenchy-HR-gal and more demand for understanding human behavior, communication, and strategic thinking.
Sure, the bottom line and business acumen in HR has been and will be an essential competency for HR. But correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't everyone need to have that? It's not mind-blowing to point out that HR needs to know how to sell their ideas and propositions to senior leaders. We been knowing that. We hear it at every. Single. Conference.
I don't have answers to this, just pointing out observations and inquiring if there's a better way to engage HR in being innovative without also making them feel like complete shit. Is it possible to give constructive criticism without leaving HR leaders feeling like they're idiots? After, aren't we the communication experts? Shouldn't we be counseling each other in the way we would want to see our environments?
I'd like to see the "trend hunters" of the HR world really rethink the way we want to create community and challenge each other. I believe we can approach our field in a way that calls us to action but calls us inward (not called out). Let's practice the skills of empathy, encouragement, and self-criticism that we want to see in our field.
But maybe that's just me being "Sally HR." 😉