Does your HR policy suit you?

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Britain used to be an industrial nation; some of us may remember that.

Our HR and Management processes tend to remember that all too well. The problem is encapsulated neatly in this quotation:

“In the Knowledge Economy everyone is a volunteer, but we have trained our managers to manage conscripts” – Peter Drucker

In this series of Blogs, I will be looking in more detail at that problem and what people may do about it. There will be other blogs, on topics related to Lean and Agile and how it relates to Management in general and HR in particular.

Let me first relate a story. It might be from personal experience; it might be distilled from a lot of similar related stories. After many years learning several related specialities, I was rated as one of the top 20 or so available in the country.

So, a new employer was really keen to get hold of me, and offered top rates. Well, I know my job and how things go with management and HR, so I ensured I got top rates, because I was unlikely to get any raise or promotion thereafter.

Why might this be though? Well, there are two “classic” types of work that are ‘unmanageable’ – and I fitted both categories. I know a lot more than my managers so they cannot rate my expertise; and I deliver intangibles so they can’t measure my output. Not a problem, I thought. I don’t expect promotion but I’m getting paid enough that it doesn’t worry me. I shall continue to do a good job for them.

Then several years later the company decides to bring in a policy of “Get up or get out” – they wanted people to be promoted within a certain timeframe, or leave. They had lost a lot of their best specialists (including me) before it began to dawn on them that their theory didn’t match their reality.

So, my question for today is “Does your HR policy match the work your organisation does?”

“Best Practice” has a fundamental problem that comes along with it. What it really means is “Do this and don’t think about it”. Yet the world moves on; what was best practice yesterday might be folly today. Unfortunately we have been taught not to think about it, not to question what is agreed Best Practice. Much of what we do today is suited for contexts that are long gone.

My anecdote gives you an idea of what might happen – if, say, you use practices designed for Production processes in Development organisations; if, say, you use processes designed for interchangeable low-skilled “resources” on high-skilled, knowledgeable people.

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