It’s easy to get fired up with great intentions when visiting a show like HR Tech Europe, but achieving change is often a daunting prospect in any settled organization. I came away from last month’s London event with the impression that many attendees were looking to improve their current ways of working rather than attempt root-and-branch reform. That’s understandable. It’s easier to nibble away at the edges and make incremental improvements than embark on more radical actions.
But sometimes you have to take bold steps to achieve meaningful results. There was certainly much food for thought at the recent London event to encourage a bolder vision. Our coverage at diginomica has reflected some of the radical thinking that’s emerging in the HR field.
One aspect of HR practice that many seem to agree is ripe for reform is performance management. Janine Milne’s interview with Heidi Spirgi of The Marcus Buckingham Company went as far as to label it as HR’s most hated tool. Said Spirgi:
“The entire industry the entire business community knows that performance management as it’s been used in business for the last 20 to 30 years is broken and flawed, yet very few alternate models have been offered.”
Her argument is that the performance management process should be built around supporting managers in their role as a team leader. It certainly shouldn’t be just an administrative tool that’s part of the compensation review process.
Another function that many disparage in its traditional forms is the recruitment process. According to recruitment guru Bill Boorman, there’s a whole set of new rules to learn. He believes organisations have focused on brand-building in order to attract applicants, with the result that they end up handling large numbers of unsuitable applications. It’s far better, he says, to give potential applicants as much information as possible about the organisation’s culture and working environment before they apply. Those that won’t fit in will be put off while the best candidates will be more enthusiastic. He sums up:
“The idea is to reduce the volume of applications and increase the volume of candidates – that will make the job of a recruiter much better.”
He also recommends using technology to analyse the indicators that have identified successful candidates in the past as another way of improving and refining the talent pipeline.
This kind of ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking suggests that, instead of making small changes to the way we do things, it’s often better to rethink the entire process from a new angle. Certainly the keynote speakers in London had brought a message that the world is changing faster than ever. My takeaway was to conclude that incremental change is not enough in an increasingly connected digital world where the concept of a ‘job for life’ is being consigned to history. My three-point summary:
- Connected digital technology is changing the world faster than most organizations are going to be able to keep up with.
- Your employer’s succession planning process will often have less impact on your personal career progression than your LinkedIn profile and TaskRabbit testimonials.
- There’s no time left to spend tinkering with yesterday’s processes and technologies. If there’s no simple fix then rip-and-replace is probably the better option.
Of course there’s a firm view in most enterprises, especially when it comes to IT, that ‘rip-and-replace’ should always be avoided. But the pace of digital change – and the scope of changes that can be enabled by going paperless, mobile and on-demand – should force us to reconsider that conventional wisdom. As Salesforce’s Peter Coffee recently pointed out, “Doing the same old things with digital technology is probably doing the wrong things, and may not even do them better.”
My advice is to beware of colleagues or mindsets that counsel against moving too fast or doing things too differently. We live in a world of rapid change and organisations that can’t cope with that pace won’t survive. Careful, incremental implementations of cloud applications and digital processes are often a case of change avoidance masquerading as change management. As I explained recently when making the case in favor of rip-and-replace:
“The advent of cloud computing has made rip-and-replace a far less risky strategy than it used to be. Because the systems are delivered from the cloud rather than installed on the customer’s own premises, enterprises no longer have to invest time and expense in a long-winded technology implementation before getting started. They can test out the capabilities of the system with a cohort of advance pilot users before rolling it out more widely at a controlled pace.
“It’s not so much rip-and-replace with no way back as replace, then rip.”