Get your fluffy on

One of the best things about social media is the way that idea leads to idea. How you can see a tweet, a blog post, or even a song (see this rather awesomesauce one from Doug Shaw and Neil Usher), how someone can take one of your own blog posts and build on your thoughts and lead to you having more thoughts. This happened to me at the weekend, and lead to some thoughts about the very fundamentals of Human Resources. Check out this excellent post from Christopher DeMers, which sparked my thoughts here.

What struck me was this. That in the race for the seat at the table, the desire to prove our strategic worth, the need to find the elusive people stuff return on investment, we’ve lost something. In our desire to leave the personnel welfare tag behind, to be more than transactional, more than a service function, we have embraced clinical language, rebadged old ideas, jumped on bandwagons and just maybe, occasionally, forgotten who we are and what we are all about. What we stand for. And we’ve lost something, something important.

We’ve become embarrassed to argue for good people stuff for the sake of good people stuff, without some measure of proof for the bottom line, lest we are seen as uncommercial. Or heaven forbid, that we might be labelled pink and fluffy.

We talk of human resources and human capital. We turned how people feel about where they work into a percentage score. We argue for engagement because there’s revenue growth in it, allegedly. I could go on.

Just maybe, we’ve lost some of the human side of human resources. It’s not cool to be fluffy. It’s not cool to have how something makes people feel as the starting point for your people stuff.

I’m always arguing for simplicity in what we do. For chucking out your HR chintz. I’m always talking about doing good people stuff in my tweets and blogs.

And now I have realised something.

I’m pink, I’m fluffy and I’m proud.

Whatever comes next for our profession, whatever is to come in the future of work, let us put the human of human resources at the forefront. Let’s start with how it makes you feel.

Myths and Assumptions.

Let’s face it. As careers go, HR doesn’t always get a good rap. I am always particularly amused when I see HR represented on the television; we are rarely portrayed in the best of lights.

So here are my favourite myths and assumptions about the HR profession and the people working within it.

We are all process freaks

We want to write a process and policy for everything, right up to and including going to the toilet.

We spend a lot of time worrying about our seat at the table

And are desperate to be seen as a strategic and credible profession, as good as all the other business functions. Sigh.

We can’t do maths

Actually I can’t. Budgets do my head in. But that doesn’t mean that I represent all. Check out a post on the subject here from Simon Jones which caused much debate.

We are all pink and fluffy

Enough said…..

We always have a clipboard

We certainly do when a fictional HR lady (for they are usually female) appears on tv. They are often dreadfully bossy types who have very important things written on said clipboard, things that must be ticked off at all costs.

There is of course a serious side to this. I’ve noticed how we also perpetuate these myths about ourselves. I was at a conference recently where there were plenty of references and jokes about the process stuff. Maybe that isn’t so helpful. Beware labelling theory. Labelling theory suggests that the behaviour of individuals can be influenced by the labels that are applied to them. I am playing fast and loose with a complex theory here, which focuses primarily on deviance. However, there is a central point in labelling theory in which it notes that when a particular label is applied to an individual, it can gain more prominence than other descriptors for them. So a man who steals becomes a thief, even though he may also be a father, a Christian, an IT analyst. Labelling theory also considers the extent to which when a label is given, the individual to whom it applies may demonstrate more of the behaviour, as well as the impact upon people when they feel that a label cannot be shaken – they give up and live up to it.

Why do these myths and labels arise? There are plenty of reasons. However, there is one that concerns me above others. Consider the availability heuristic. This is a fancy term for the way in which our brains, when asked to recall something or make a decision, will take the quickest route based on the easiest information available. This is usually our most prominent or recent experience over logic or evidence. So if the only HR people you have ever met are clipboard waving, pink jumper wearing, maths failing, policy salivating women who are carrying around their own chair in case there isn’t one for them in the boardroom, then chances are that will be your view of the entire profession.

On reflection, perhaps ‘pink and fluffy’ isn’t so funny, after all.

We must challenge the myths, the assumptions and the stereotypes. Challenge what we know to be untrue. Let HR lead the way.