March 13, 2013

Disruptive HR

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close-up of water droplets splashing into calm body of waterA few months ago, I did a piece on Disruptive Recruiting. Fitting title for an article appearing on, I guess, but what about Disruptive HR? There’s a title that sets far more tongues a-wagging, in part because HR is not really known for being disruptive at all.

HR strives to include everyone, get the agreement of the masses and walk that fine line between employees and the organization’s best interests. We’re not paid to be employee advocates, but we also miss out on a lot of the strategic discussions, despite the emerging knowledge economy and HR’s innate ability to navigate it. Add to that HR’s tenuous, near co-dependent relationship with legal and marketing and ‘fuggedaboutit.’

Nope, HR is not meant to be disruptive. But it’d better be.

Why? Because HR sets the tone for the company. Human Resources is often the first arm of the company that any employee sees or meets. Because people are the center of our organizations and they are looking for inspiration. Why not HR?

Because Forbes says:

Innovation is never a sure thing.  In fact, it is almost always a gamble. Any venture capitalist will tell you that while they are always looking for greater than 10 times return on their investments, they also expect a pile of failures along the way.  This contradicts an HR mainstay: ROI.  Organizations with HR departments that avoid risk-taking for fear of not justifying every new policy through a black and white ROI stifle business growth and potential.

But the companies that exemplify profits and excitement and best practices did not get that way by pursuing profits and excitement and best practices. They tore down the non-working parts of their Human Resources functions and started from scratch. They became key drivers of innovation in their organizations, by innovating within their function. But HOW?

Standard HR practice would say “Do the things those other companies did.” but that’s not disruption or innovation. In fact, this is more of a mindset question than one that can be solved by throwing different tactics at the wall. Here are a few ways to get into the disruption mindset:

Get the big (and small) picture: If you don’t know what is going on in your company and who is already taking risks, you have no business innovating. Disrupting isn’t about changing things for the sake of change, it’s (at least part) about doing your homework and identifying where your company has and is willing to take risks.

Talk to your vendors: I talk to vendors all the time and it never ceases to amaze me the things they are coming up with. Ask if you can beta test a new iteration of a product or find advanced hidden features of your current technology. Vendors can also help point you in the right (general) direction when you ask about additional functionality. Smart ones are partnering with other companies and as a customer, you should take advantage of that to rehaul your benefits, compensation and reporting practices.

Information is money: No really. It is. Information is fast becoming a commodity for Human Resources. You just have to learn how to harness it. Use your CRM to dig a little deeper into the data you have on your employees and your applicants and figure out what you can do with it.

Use the Data You Have: More than ever, HRIS tools are generating powerful data. Are you making the most of the data you’re creating? Think outside the box. How can you use data from one function to strengthen another? For example, recognition data can be instrumental in helping you to identify top performers for succession management. Are you just collecting data, or are you analyzing it and leveraging it in innovative ways?

Revamp your process: If your workforce is primarily Gen Y and you’re still providing once a year performance reviews, you’re wasting your money and your time. Invest in solutions that make sense for your workforce, not the antiquated system that your predecessor purchased when you were still an undergrad.

Ask forgiveness, not permission: I love listening to Jason Lauritsen, because he is constantly reinventing and reimagining what HR could be like, if only we could build without these old musty blueprints. The best part about his story? He was a corporate practitioner for years, which means he had to stick within the same parameters you’re faced with. Find a tribe of people committed to change and start innovating already!

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Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space. Hogan speaks and writes on all career and workforce related subjects. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies and SMBs around the globe. Red Branch Media was formed in 2006 as a simple consultancy. Today, the firm is a full-service B2B Marketing Agency that serves clients in the U.K., Africa, China, Israel, Europe and North America. Primarily focused on the Human Resources and Global Workforce vendors, Red Branch Media handles clients of all shapes and sizes.
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