CIPD Conference 2015: Architecting Redundancy

I’m not sure whether the nervous laughter in the group was because i’d asked some embarrassing questions, or because they were embarrassed about the answers. The question? “What’s the point of HR?“, “Will HR exist in five years?“, “Will you be working in HR in five years?“. I hope the answer to all of these is ‘no‘. Not because i’m mean, but because the traditional models of HR that got us this far need to evolve if they are to get us where we need to go.

CIPD 2015

In line with every other vertical entity in the organisation, be it IT, Compliance, Front Office or Sales, the aim of change should be to architect the redundancy of the current state, to evolve into place we need to be. The future organisation will be both Scaffolded and Reconfigurable: adaptive and responsive, dynamic and agile. Or it will be dead.

Future Organisations

So many vertical entities within organisations have evolved as mechanisms of control, designed to reinforce a social contract that lies in tatters on the floor of the empty office. There is no career: there is no certainty, there is simply the constant change of the Social Age, and only organisations able to thrive in this space will survive.

But here’s the good news: this is a time of opportunity, a time to experiment, a time to shine. This is a time to learn, to facilitate, to prototype and to change. And for those who do so, those who grasp the opportunity, the future is theirs. The rules will be rewritten, but possibly not by those in authority today.

The formal, hierarchical framework gives us precisely half of what we need. The other half is social: the tacit wisdom of the community. If we are lucky, we will be allowed into the conversation.

In the future state, those with Social Authority, who emerge from the community, will hold as much, or more, political power than those with corner offices and a parking spot. Sometimes the same person will hold both types of power, sometimes they won’t. But here’s the thing: Social authority can always and fully subvert the formal, whilst formal can never fully subvert the social. You can drive the community of the space, but you can never kill the conversation.

The only way to generate engagement is to make things engaging: you can’t buy it, you have to live it. Make what we do worthy of respect and people will respect it. Give them tripe and what do you expect?

The greatest enemy of organisation agility is not people who don’t engage. It’s people who think it’s the fault of the people who don’t engage.

Redesign HR to be the promise: i loved the answers i got about what HR professionals want HR to be. To be enabling. To facilitate. To support. But to get there, we need to architect our own redundancy: kill the titan. For only from the ashes of the monstrous legacy can the future state emerge.

People are not human resources. They are people.

People do not need to be managed: they need to be empowered and facilitated. They deserve to be trusted until the point they do not earn it. And we need to earn their trust it we want it to be awarded.

The last few days have been enlightening: great people, great conversations. I just leave with a sense that this is the time for great actions too.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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