Bold HR: A Theme Which is Here to Stay

This week we are hosting our annual IMPACT conference, our 8th year. While I don’t want to give away the secrets of my keynote, the theme is what we call Bold HR:  giving HR the freedom and confidence to reinvent, innovate, and push the envelope.

As we will be discussing at the conference, the world of HR and talent management has not been keeping up with business.

Companies around the world tell us that their HR teams (or People Operations teams, as they’re called here in California), are falling behind.

The dynamic, younger workforce is demanding a more compelling work experience; your employment brand is now totally transparent; and leadership gaps are higher than ever. Talent Management, as we defined it only a few years ago, is fading away– being replaced by a much more dynamic approach we might call People Management.  A new focus on simplification, engagement, culture, and leadership at all levels is here.

HR teams and leaders can address these issues – but only if we move faster and more boldly.

I just read an article by John Chambers (CEO of Cisco) in Harvard Business Review today and he puts it very simply:

By the time it’s obvious you need to change, it’s probably too late.

This is the story for HR.  Just as product, sales, marketing, and technology teams have to rapidly adapt to stay ahead of markets, so must HR.  We must constantly stay vigilant to workforce changes, economic trends, and changes in the business which force us to throw away old practices and start over.

This is the essence of what we call “Bold HR” – and it is here to stay.

I am very excited to be able to meet with more than 500 of our closest friends in Florida this week and look forward to sharing much more with you about Bold HR in the coming weeks.

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  • We (ConnectingHR) had an unconference on Brave HR a few years back which also focused on the need for ambition and confidence in making this change. One of my suggestions then was that big, bold, brave HR needs to do more than focus on the existing business agenda – http://strategic-hcm.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/brave-hr.html and I still think that’s the case. So the only thing I’d draw issue with in the above is the comment that HR hasn’t been keeping up with the business. We haven’t and we need to but we need to do more than that as well. To me, bold / brave need to lead the business too ie to set some of the direction not just help the rest of the business get to where is has already decided it needs to go.

    By the way, if there is a distinction between brave and bold, I think brave emphasised that it isn’t enough to know what do to, and to know this quickly enough, but it’s also necessary to have the resilience and resolve to push this through. And although there’s been a big change over the last 5 years in that most HR teams now know we need to change, and many know at least some of what’s required, I think there’s still an awful lot holding back and hanging onto best practice, as well as letting ourselves be confined by the existing business agenda.

    • Thank you John! Post-IMPACT i’ll put some more thoughts on what Bold HR means to me, being brave is definitely part of it! I’ve met with many HR teams this last few years and the problem is not a lack of business alignment, it’s more one of “spending time where the money is made.” I’ll explain more soon…

      • I look forward to it! Have a great conference.

  • Randeep Dosanjh

    As a tech management consultant and the owner of a Boutique Staffing Practice, I look at firms like Google who invented this new term “People Operations” which sounds cool. (www, Google https://www.google.ca/about/careers/teams/people-operations/ , 2015) .

    You can change the name all you like, even make a few new rules, if the idiots you have doing your Human Resource work are dummies who have been sued for thier hiring practices and taken Human Rights complaints to the Supreme Court in trying to put away a customer complaint – You`re still dead in the water.

    Reinventing the wheel for some Montana Cattle Boner gone Hayweaver is what you’re doing.

    “People Operations” sounds cool for me being an entrepreneur and a tech-management consultant. That’s where it ends.

    Great Read! Thanks for the warning!

    • I think language can be important, so if HR is really about Operations then it makes sense to change the name to this as well. But I’d argue that HR’s not, or shouldn’t be about this, but should rather be about strategy, conversation, inspiration and provocation etc.

      Perhaps for Google and others it is the result of being data driven – if the focus is data then I suppose you do need operations (+ – x /) to make use of it. Whereas if you’re people driven you need different ways of applying this people focus.

      With my new understanding from following the tweets during the conference I now understand that ‘bold’ is an acronym (with a d for ‘demand data’) and I’d suggest this is another difference between bold and brave – bold HR may always demand data, I’d hope brave HR has the additional courage to push back, to explain why HR is sometimes different to the rest of the business (the result of focusing on a different value chain – http://www.joningham.com/advice/the-organisation-strategy-map) and that data isn’t always going to helpful or appropriate.

      Engagement is a good example, as I have tweeted during the conference – to me, moving from annual to pulse surveys isn’t the answer. Most HR functions have too much engagement data already, the need is to change behaviour to create a more compelling environment (I do agree with the B for ‘build an irresistible organisation in ‘bold’ and will keep in that in ‘brave’!) – not to measure engagement even more or more quickly than we already do.

      So that’s why I think People Inspiration would be a much better name for our function.

      • Makes sense- I’m sure there are many much more appropriate names. Myself am only in a small section of the greater picture but you have a good points. Thanks Jon.