This Summer’s ConnectingHR unconference focuses on Brave HR. So what is brave HR?
Today, one of the ConnectingHR community members and organisers of the unconference, Graham Frost, started a twitter conversation on what we think this thing is. For me, three different things came to mind.
The first of these is challenging our businesses when they do stupid things. Trust in business is at an all time low (down to 38% of people in Edelman’s Trust Barometer UK results). And employee engagement is down as well (35% in the CIPD’s Engagement Index in their last Employee Outlook). This isn’t our employees fault. Every time a business defrauds its customers or investors (by needlessly giving their money to its CEOs); every time it finds a way round regulation or avoids paying appropriate taxes; every time it colludes with its competitors; every time it contaminates our environment; every time it treats its employees as dispensable assets, it turns people off business. That’s business in general and this business in particular. And it needs to stop. HR can and should play a role and possibly a leading role in this. The tendency however is to collude with other business leaders and we need to be braver to speak out.
The second aspect of brave HR is not being confined by a business agenda. We’re becoming so conditioned by the need to support the business but we can often create more impact by making our businesses better fit for our people than we can be aligning the people with our businesses. It may not make us popular to say this but for me it needs saying…
This then led me onto thinking about what I think is the best articulation I’ve seen recently of how businesses as a whole need to change. This is from John Mackey at Whole Foods Stores in his presentation at the Concious Capitalism conference this year.
Mackey talks about How businesses need to do more than earn money in the same way that other professions such as teachers and doctors aren’t just focused on what they do to earn money. And I wonder is this should be the case for HR? It’s certainly true, linked to my first point above, that we should encourage a more conscious approach in the businesses we work within.
But linked to my second point, should our profession focus on more than just helping business? In an individual organisation, probably not – we need to focus on helping that organisation do whatever it is attempting, though we can certainly encourage a long-term perspective to this eg investing in local communities because otherwise the business eventually won’t have any communities to operate within.
But as a profession, there’s certainly an opportunity for us to be concerned about things like tackling youth unemployment; meeting future skill needs; providing compelling work and careers; and developing greater social mobility more than we are. I think this would be brave HR as well.
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