Don’t wait for HR, or anyone else for that matter, to save you at work.

Here at HR tech World in Paris yesterday I heard Yves Morieux from Boston Consulting Group make the case that in a post industrial world an organisation’s people, and their willingness to collaborate, are their greatest assets. He also suggested that given that organisations play such a large part in modern civilised society, and that HR are responsible for the people in our organisations, that therefore the future of society was in HR’s hands. When I reported this view online it was met with considerable scepticism!

But how many times have we heard this before – that people are the most important things in organisations – and how little have we done to show that we actually mean it!? If it’s not HR who are going to take responsibility who is it? Finance?? IT??

Later in the day I watched Sir Richard Branson sit on stage in jeans and an open neck shirt berate the besuited audience for indulging in power dressing while expecting to bring out the best of the people that work for them. He also described how throwing a massive party for 70,000 former British Rail staff when Virgin took over the west coast main line converted them from “government workers” to enthusiastic customer service staff.


With unprecedented numbers of people expressing severe disengagement from work, and a general sense that something is wrong pervading the workplace, it is going to take more than changing our dress code and throwing parties to sort this. It is also no good waiting for the heads of our various silos to sort it for us. They are part of the problem.

If, as I believe it is, the future is about autonomous, thoughtful, proactive individuals operating and coordinating through trusted networks, supported by online conversations, then that is how we have to start acting. Now. We can’t wait for someone else to give us permission. We can’t wait for them to show us how to do it. We have to start taking responsibility for behaving differently, for saying no to more of the bullshit, for reaching out to others beginning to act in the same ways.

What are we waiting for? Seriously – what?

6 thoughts on “Don’t wait for HR, or anyone else for that matter, to save you at work.

  1. What are we waiting for? The discomfort to reach unbearable levels. We’re a long way off that yet. Same as with the financial crisis. Not enough pain felt deep enough and widely enough (Greece notwithstanding) for a significant change in behaviour (although Iceland making good progress).


  2. I have often heard organisations remark on how young people joining their ranks – people who are avid sharers and connectors – cease to do so in support of organisational social media initiatives. I’m sure you’re familiar with the problem. People are quick to detect and adapt to cultural norms. In answer to your question, somehow organisations are discouraging this activity. I agree with you that isolated events – such as parties – won’t change this. But they are probably part of the answer. Hierarchical organisations foster parent-child relationships. The transition from a parent-child relationship to a peer-to-peer one is not easy. And we are not looking for a new world of rebellious children: this, after all, only re-inscribes the relationship.


    1. Totally agree. I could have added "youngsters" to the list of people who are not going to save you. Also agree about the rebellious children concern – which is why the first chapter in my book was called "we all need to grow up"!


  3. People must refuse to work for companies that operate with traditional, top-down, one-way, control-centered practices. As long as people are willing to work for them, their leaders will continue operating under the rules that got them into the executive suite. It may mean you take a lower paying job or move to a different town. But in return you get to keep your power instead of handing it over to a company that doesn’t respect you. Employees need to view themselves as consumers who choose the brands with which they affiliate, not products a company buys. If enough people adopt this mindset, the entire discipline of HR and the way companies operate will change.


    1. I keep saying this to clients. The smart people won’t want to work for them unless they change, and more than just slapping lipstick on pigs. Be interesting to see if they are able to though I don’t hold out much hope.


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