Putting the Human back in Human Resources

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Letting Go of Structure

Structure. Standard Operating Procedure. Policy. Checklists. This is how modern organisations are run. Decisions are predicated on scaling every action and practice so that they can be replicated easily. This isn’t done without reason, of course. Industry experts and illustrious consultants preach about how these methods improve efficiency, and about how it helps portray consistency and quality across the organisation, telling leaders that employees need specific guidelines and walkthroughs of how their jobs should be done. 

Granted, there are times when structure is necessary for getting things done, yet on the whole, it usually rears its head as the enemy of progress, innovation, and meaningful impact. Indeed, there is no place where is this chasm is more pronounced and evident than in how we deal with people.

People are Still People

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Until the day when robots and AI take over every aspect of our lives (maybe even eliminating the human race), the workplace will continue to be dominated by humans. Yet so many of us seem to forget this. We continue to view organisations as structures and entities of commerce, rather than a composition of people working towards a common goal – and this perception is evident in how we run businesses. 

HR departments get enveloped by the RESOURCES of their title, and neglect the HUMAN element. Performance reviews and feedback are done via appraisal templates and ratings, ignoring personal fulfilment and happiness. We discard the notion of human interaction, feelings, and emotional connection, instead embracing checklists and onboarding SOPs. It is as if we stop being human when we walk through our office doors. 

Why do we do this?  We won’t consent to such a practice in any of our other relationships, yet when it comes to business, why is this the only reality we seem to accept? I think a large part of it comes down to the fact that’s it’s simply easier. Pretending to care is easier than genuinely caring. After all, it’s much easier for a manager to simply go through a predetermined template created by an overpaid HR consultant than it is to spend the time and energy to understand someone’s true needs and expectations. Even harder would be following up on this truth, admitting mistakes and making the necessary changes to their management style and expectations based on actual context. 

This inauthenticity with which organisations and leaders conduct themselves has major repercussions. Studies have shown that over 90% of employees do not find fulfilment in their work. In particular, millennials – who crave a sense of meaning and purpose in what they do – jump from job to job, searching for the elusive role that will provide them with what they desire.

Some employers dismiss this turnover and job hopping as something inherent in the market and the entire generation, while others attempt to retain millennials by adopting “progressive policies” like hot desking and placing beanbags around the office, in yet another attempt to pretend to care and listen. Yet neither approach is right.

Embrace the Messiness

So what can we do? If we ditch the structure of old, how can leaders and organisations deal with their people?

It’s quite simple. The best HR approach every organisation should adopt can essentially be boiled down to one word: CARE.

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Leaders need to genuinely care about their people, and advance policies throughout the organisation that actually makes a difference to employee well-being. As author Simon Sinek put it, the real job of a leader is not being in charge, but taking care of people in their charge. 

Truly being people focused means letting go of the clean, structured reports of performance and on-boarding updates, and embracing the messy, disorganised truth. We need a new generation of businesses, ones that embrace organisational EQ throughout all levels. After all, we are dealing with human interaction, emotions, and connection, not data points generated by a machine. And unless leaders come to terms with that fact soon, their organisation will lose out to those that do.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or want to reach out to me, my email is joel@creativityasia.com. Let me know if I can be of any help.