Hacking HR to Build an Adaptability Advantage

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Lisa, a great question and one which goes beyond HR. Do managers and others believe in people (and themselves) enough to be a catalyst for adaptability?

The most agile organisations are those who with few rules that restrict what people can do, but which create norms where people are accountable to each other by the most visible managers and leaders leading by example.

Maybe the first question to ask ourselves would be: can this really not be done or am I just assuming it can't be done? If the latter, why?

Here's my question. Does the typical/average HR professional or function believe in people enough to be a catalyst for adaptability and innovation? I am an HR professional, and if I ask myself what the most pressing barriers are to HR's adaptability, I would say that a fundamental lack of belief in people is key. This might seem shocking because HR people are the people people, right? But remember that HR also sees people at their worst. I think that we get programmed to think of people in terms of what they can't, won't or fail to do. We spend more time devising ways to keep people from doing wrong things and are less likely to work on helping people do amazing things. I have found HR professionals, on the whole (not all) to be small thinkers when it comes to people's capacity to change and make something happen. If this is really a key barrier, how do we help ourselves and other HR pros think bigger and be better catalysts?

stephen-remedios's picture

There's no doubt that Adaptability is a key leadership capability in today's VUCA (Volatile, Unpredictable, Complex & Ambiuous) world. What makes it even more important in HR is what I'm keen to understand. 

Top of mind, in general, HR has historically been focussed on horizontal development - competency frameworks, training interventions etc. That development hasn't necessary been the best return on investment. In some organizations, the focus has begun to shift to vertical development. That's much harder because it involves creating learning contexts where an individual actually has to earn the learning. There are no short cuts or quick fixes or 5-day workshops!

My personal view is that HR has to be the most adaptable because they hold the keys to the culture of organizations. And we all know what Drucker had to say about Culture... It can eat strategy for breakfast!

What is the role of HRM in Human Rights Issues in Organisations involved in International Business?

nigel-barron's picture


Here's an interesting piece on Human Rights and Business from Amnesty International


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