Last week I went to Træfpunkt HR, the largest HR fair in Denmark. There are about 140 stands – many of them presenting some kind of HR tool – and several presentations. Here is a blog about what I picked up.
The employee as adult, customer, and human
The first presentation of the day by Lucy Adams talked about how we need to fundamentally rethink the meaning and role of HR in order to be relevant – and HR can be extremely relevant in delivering a competitive advantage in today’s age. She quotes the HR director of Unilever: “We can’t keep saying the world around us is changing – and carry on delivering HR in the same way”.
Lucy Adams advocated a change in the way we see employees and conduct HR:
- The employee as adult: Often companies take on the role of the ‘employee mum’ (notices with ‘wash your hands’) or ‘employee dad’ (an annual talk about your ‘report card’). Why do they assume that their employees are unable to take decisions themselves once they are inside the doors? And why do we create policies based on the worst possible behaviour? That also has an effect on the 98% who don’t steal coat hangers from hotels. Several companies are already taking their employees more serious; for example by listing a number of topics new employees should find information on (vs. a one day sit-down-and-listen-event), or communicating that they trust the employee’s judgment when getting dressed in the morning (vs. an elaborate dress code).
- The employee as customer: We can learn a lot from consumer organisations who know an awful lot about their customers and tailor their services to them. Why are so many HR policies universal? Why do companies want to implement one system for performance management, rewards, training etc? There are several companies who are now tailoring their HR to specific types of employees, for example Starbucks who distinguishes three types of employees with a different goal: having a career within Starbucks, working in a fun team, or just there for the cash.
- The employee as human: Few HR policies are based on how humans actually think, feel and behave. A good example is performance management, which has developed to compensate for ‘poor managers’ and ensure conversations about performance are actually taking place in a good way. But imagine you would do this with kids – only give feedback once a year and put them on a scale of 1 to 5; so why would we want to do this with adults? We can see now that companies are moving away from it, and focus the annual conversation more on career development, or have more frequent feedback conversations, without this forced ranking.
I was also very interested in the presentation about sustainability by professor Steen Hildebrandt. This followed nicely on an article I recently read and found very inspiring (and hope to dedicate a blog post to as well at some point), about how HR could contribute to solving the big questions of the world*. Prof. Hildebrandt emphasized the importance of sustainability in today’s world – it is no longer a choice, but a necessity. Companies also should take this into account. Unfortunately, the talk did not really touch on what HR can do towards achieving this goal. How do you think HR could work with this topic? I’d love to hear ideas or examples.
I also walked around and explored some of the new developments. Apart from many stands presenting some kind of tool to automate MR processes, there were also many stands focusing on health – which was also the topic of the keynote talk by Christian Bitz. Another important development that HR professionals need to take into account is the introduction of EU General Data Protection Regulation by 25 May 2018. This is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years, which has several consequences for all companies processing and holding the personal data in the EU. For example, some personal information regarding employees may only be kept for a certain amount of time, and Nets has introduced a system where it is possible to indicate when certain information can be deleted, so that these data are protected in the right way.
* Brewster, C., Gooderham, P. N., & Mayrhofer, W. (2016). Human resource management: the promise, the performance, the consequences. Journal of Organizational Effectiveness, People and Performance, 3(2), 181-190.