Whoops Apocalypse

My daughter asked me if the world is going to end on Friday. Apparently she’s been worrying about it all week. Well, you do when you are eleven.  I told her absolutely not.  I finish for the Xmas break on Friday and I need the holiday.  No apocalypse is going to deny me, and we’ve also spent a lot of money on Xmas presents that we fully intend her and her brother to get.

For many HR teams it’s the time when they reflect on what’s been achieved over the year. For many it’s a chance to look back with pride and satisfaction over a strategy delivered and a difference made to the bottom line. For some though, they breathe a huge sigh of relief, lick their wounds, look forward to a quick chance to refresh their selves and hope that the next 12 months will be better than the last as the torture of fire fighting begins again, operating in a business that doesn’t value HR or is riddled with internal politics.

I hope you are not an HR person who has had a particularly hard year and feel the apocalypse would be a welcome relief from your daily grind in an organization that pays lip service to the people agenda and continually makes decisions at executive level that undermine everything you are trying to do. I’ve been there and know what it feels like.

It was working in an organization with a particularly rancid and toxic culture many years ago that made me realise that sometimes you simply can’t make a difference and life is too short to die trying.  Since then I have been a lot more selective about my job choices and have both walked away from or turned down jobs in organizations where I didn’t believe HR was really valued.

I wish others in our profession were more choosy.  Do bad organisations attract only mediocre HR people?  If New Zealand is any sort of global barometer, they probably do and they get what they deserve. Mediocrity is rife in the HR profession. One of the reasons I started this blog was the absence of Australasian HR bloggers. Sure, there are some recruiters that blog and some coaches/trainers, but there are few if any pure HR practitioners who are prepared to put themselves out there and say what they think about the profession and the work they do.

It seems to me that as a profession we are terrified of offending anyone and saying what we really think. Terrified of what our bosses might think, afraid to have an opinion.  And that is part of HR’s problem. We don’t have a voice or a role model in the real world. People mutter names like Ulrich (a lifelong academic not a practitioner), but he is preaching to the converted and I would argue his influence is limited outside of the HR community. I suspect a good proportion of HR professionals in this country don’t actually know who Ulrich is anyway!  So where is the HR equivalent of a Branson, Jobs, Gates etc?

There is no one in the industry who is recognised globally as an HR thought leader amongst CEO’s and Executives. Also, consider the fact that no one to my knowledge has ever written a best-selling novel, or made a film or TV series that has an HR professional as the central character.  Are we really that dull and uninteresting?  When HR people do feature in films, we are usually portrayed as gormless and charmless robots who are only there to fire people.  Not clever and strategic thinkers who influence and make their organizations better places to work.  Never the hero, always the joke figure.

So I’m saying 2013 is the year when we need to take HR out of the shadows and into the mainstream, make it sexy and interesting, reinvent ourselves and find a voice. It needs to be an apocalyptic change. Where are the HR heroes, the HR unconferences, the people doing something radical and different? Where are the industry thought leaders brave enough to shake things up and challenge the traditional thinking? It has to start with us. Don’t stand around waiting for approval, get out there and do something. Go on, be brave. I dare you.

Wherever you are in the world, have a safe and restful break and come back firing on all cylinders in 2013 with a vow to do something different.  Out with the old and in with the new as they say.  And you know what?  The world won’t end when you do it.

2 thoughts on “Whoops Apocalypse

  1. Amanda Sterling (@sterling_amanda) says:

    Love this blog! Who are our HR thought leaders? Are we really dull and uninteresting? Is someone going to write a book about HR people? I’m thinking a publicication in the same vein as ‘the help’ would be hilarious.

    We should not be settling for mediocrity – bring on 2013!

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