The sign of any great conference is when you continue to mull over the ideas with which you’re presented and the concepts you learn even after the event itself is over. It’s now a little over a week since WorkHuman 2016 wrapped up, and I’m still contemplating much of what I heard.
The event closed on Wednesday afternoon with a keynote from business thinker and author Gary Hamel, in a session titled “For Human Being to Thrive at Work, Bureaucracy Must Die.” The closing keynote spot at any conference can be an unfortunate place on the agenda, as many attendees tend to cut out early to catch flights home. That just did not appear to be the case for most at WorkHuman, and we were treated to an energetic, entertaining, and very relevant message.
The overall theme of Gary Hamel’s keynote was that the design of most of our organizations is in direct conflict with human nature. He offered the following three truths:
- Humans are creative, most of our organizations are not
- Humans are adaptable, most of our organizations are not
- Humans are passionate, most of our organizations are not
And because of these truths, most of our organizations are less human than the people that work within them, and therefore waste more human capacity than they use.
A pretty sad state of affairs, isn’t it?
Hamel went on to suggest that our roles as leaders is NOT to get the people within our organizations to serve the needs of our organizations, it’s to build an environment with such a compelling purpose that our people voluntarily bring their individual gifts to work every day. And when they do that, if we utilize those gifts appropriately, they will contribute to the overall success of the organization. He then promised us seven ways to change the realities within our organizations (but actually only got around to five – probably because he was just so passionate about each one that he spent more time than he expected to on each).
The five ways he touched on were:
- Get Angry – that our workplaces as so designed that our people are forced to show up but leave their humanity at home
- Load Up On data – if you want to inspire and lead change, you need to speak to the head as well as the heart
- Find the Fringe – and then push the boundaries
- Develop a New Set of Principles – whether it be meritocracy, more collaborative decision making, finding and developing the natural leaders in your organization, or embracing the wisdom of the crowd
- Reinvent the “How” – enlarge the scope of decision making and embrace the idea that irregular people doing irregular things in irregular ways create irregular successes
Each of these probably each deserve their own post, and perhaps at some point I’ll revisit them, but for now I’ll leave you with this takeaway…
As HR leaders, we cannot be the champions of bureaucracy and the status quo, especially when that status quo runs contrary to the very nature of human beings. And for many HR professionals that can be a challenge; many by nature and training tend to want to preserve the status quo at all costs. But that is no longer a sustainable way to approach our businesses and workplaces. We have a duty to challenge these constructs that really don’t serve long term sustainability or promote great workplaces and bring out the best in our people, the people who make our businesses what they are.
That’s no easy task, and certainly we can’t do it alone, but we can be the ones at the forefront of the change. The “how” is the difficult part, but these five ideas for changing our realities are a good starting point.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
That’s an excellent point China! Thanks for reading and for commenting. We do have a responsibility to take the lead, set the example, and model the way for all leaders in our organizations. I really enjoyed Gary’s presentation and feel like there was so much food for thought – and actionable points – contained in it. I’ll definitely be spending more time thinking about what we talked about.
Gary’s presentation was a real call to action, I think: “we need less resignation and more indignation” really spoke to me. As I spend more of my time on the intersection of business performance, culture and humanity I’ve had a hard time pinning down what I’m feeling as I see all the data that clearly show the people who are treated like human beings bring their best to every part of their lives. And Gary identifled it for me: indignation. How dare we — leaders — treat people any less than human? How dare we?