I believe that some of the things we do in HR are crossing the futility boundary; a phrase I have stolen from the pharma industry. The futility boundary occurs when a particular drug cannot be said to have anything more than a psychological effect; its benefits can no longer be conclusively proved. No better than placebo.
I am convinced in HR we do too many things just because.
Its best practice, all the big companies do it, it’s the latest fad or must have, the latest bright idea. We seek affirmation from other people, psychological reinforcement that we are doing the right things, making the right decisions. We read case studies, articles and tweets, we see cool things and we want them. It’s why in our personal life we buy the shoes, the expensive handbags, the fancy cosmetics (me, anyway). I also believe it is why we can get so preoccupied with the concept of best practice. The HR awards season is starting, and my first response to those who deservedly won the coveted awards yesterday was to quickly read why they won, figure out what they are doing in their HR department that I’m not. Just in case I might be missing something.
The cult of best practice, the desire to jump straight on that latest bandwagon, can lead to the implementation of things that don’t fit our own individual business. We think we need them because we had them in another compnay, we just probably should. Then once they are in situ, we rarely stop to review them, consider if they are still the right thing. It is now pretty much accepted by lots of HR types that the annual performance review ain’t all that useful, employee engagement surveys don’t deliver. Do you remember the first time someone said that to you, the first blog or article you read criticising them? Cognitive dissonance kicks in. Did you agree wholeheartedly, or faced with the information that this particular bit of HR stuff we have been doing for ages might not be the best thing, did you put your fingers in your ears and say ‘I can’t hear you’? How long did you stay in denial before you changed your mind? And once you have launched or introduced something in your HR department, how often do you review it check whether those clothes still fit?
So here are my own personal HR things that have crossed my futility boundary; things that I can no longer fully articulate the value of, or show any benefit from, for my own situation, right now.
- Employee handbooks (surely the most pointless thing ever)
- Exit interviews (second from above)
- Job evaluation (expensive, bureaucratic, questionable value beyond box ticking)
- Scores in a performance review when the score isn’t linked to anything (I mean why?)
- Employee forums / committees (never been in one that got out of the canteen / car park)
- The engagement survey (naturally)
You will have your own personal futility boundary. And it’s all yours.
Become who you are. Create your own best practice.
Image by @AATImage (Graham Smith)