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Why is the world moving towards disruptive HR practices?

Written by: By Vijayaraghavan Pisharody – General Manager – Human Resources and Corporate Communication – Stempeutics Research – A Manipal Education and Medical Group Enterprise, with contributions from Smita Ranjan – Value Labs

We didn't start the fire!

It's hard to believe a world without our current technology. Where images convey entire conversations and we can tell the whole world about your crappy mood. Where we can spend a whole day having conversations with someone on the other side of the world, without saying a word. Technology has changed the way we live. Our lifestyles and eventually our societies, economies and environments have changed, thanks to technology.

All world economic forums are dominated by three main concerns - economic, environmental, security, and all three are interchangeable. Long-term economic prosperity depends on the safety and security of people and equally on environmental sustainability. For example, today, the repercussions of short-term economic views, intolerance and reckless use of natural resources are easily and immediately apparent.

Our world is going through extreme weather events brought on by global warming across the globe. Within our own country, a number of metros fall short of high qualities of life because they lack good clean air, quality drinking water, and basic infrastructure for commuting.

For example in a city like Bangalore, studies have shown that the average traffic speed has come down to 9 km per hour and by 2020 it could further come down to 5 km per hour. This automatically impacts rudimentary human behaviour, giving rise to anxiety, depression, bipolar behaviour and various other negative social interactions.

It's clear then that along with this rapidly changing world, we also need to make rapid changes in the way we deal with people, as well as the systems and practices we have had all this while. We no longer live in insular societies where our social wellbeing is dependent on a certain number of known factors.

Increased technology has shrunk the world even smaller and our day to day lives are affected by the actions of countries across the world. We have moved on from leading linear lives where human beings progressed over a million years in a setting that was local. The only thing that affected them were what was visible in a day's life. It was linear in the terms that the life of previous generations wasn't all that much different from the current one.

After the age of industrialisation, life changed drastically - suddenly human beings had multiple lives. Work life had to separate from personal life, from family life. Moving from an agrarian economy we found ourselves in an industrial age, where we no longer worked 365 days a year. Instead we had 6-day work weeks.

What happens in countries far away from us affect us as much as what happens to our neighbour next door. That's the difference between our ability to project linearly and project exponentially. This is causing disruptive stress because as humans we think linearly, but the resources are changing exponentially.

Which brings us to the crore worthy question - How can we, as human resource professionals, think exponentially to not only solve the current problems created by mankind, but also create something sustainable that will eventually contribute to the happiness and wellbeing of mankind, and therefore society?

Disruptive HR practices

Countries like Bhutan measures prosperity by determining its citizens' happiness levels, not the GDP. It's a developing country that has put environmental conservation and sustainability at the heart of its political agenda. In the last 20 years Bhutan has doubled life expectancy, enrolled almost 100% of its children in primary school and overhauled its infrastructure.

The world's second-richest man (Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim) suggests 3-day work weeks, saying, "With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax; for quality of life."

Thirty years ago, HR systems ran on mainframes and were back office systems built to automate, store, and manage employee data. They ran payroll, stored employee data, and managed performance reviews, training administration, vacation policy, and time and attendance. They were primarily used by HR managers.

Today, the whole system has changed. These systems are accessed and handled by employees themselves. Automation has made it a level arena, where these services are now all self service. The success of these is therefore dependent on how easy they are to use. Not just by employees but by job candidates too.

Along with the processes, the need for the hour has also changed. People are no longer content to look for jobs. They are out to hunt for experiences. Recruitment systems today run on mobile phones and you can apply for a job with one click, take an interview via the phone's video camera, and take an online assessment as you apply. The most attractive candidates aren't likely to write a resume , they'll probably upload their LinkedIn profile. Therefore it is the HR department's aim to make recruitment software not just easy to use but also fun.

So what is the current scenario and how can we change it to adapt to the future? Internal HR Management Systems (HRMS) currently are also too complex, creating a need for an army of consultants to build self-service front-ends. They need to be simple and easy for people to update their status, find their benefits, locate other skilled people, find and take courses, complete onboarding for a new job, locate skilled professionals, assess candidates, and set or monitor goals.

The way we look at hierarchy has to change too. For example, a company in the US named Fishbowl, a manufacturing and warehouse management solutions for QuickBooks - has two people to fill one leadership position. Every person is a leader, paired with another and supported by a team, thereby promoting personal growth and allowing twice as many people to have leadership opportunities. It also helps to foster strong employee growth in addition to company and revenue growth. (Information from HBR)

Conclusion:

The examples above essentially questions existing practices and status quo. It compels us to ask, 'Why Not?' Most HR policies, processes, benefits have been around for decades and served the industrial age, and in some cases even the agrarian age.

However, we are now living in a knowledge age, which will very soon transition into the space age, looking at man's aspiration of conquering Mars and beyond. It's therefore key to stay grounded and not forget the core reason for human existence - the endless search for good health, happiness, societal harmony, co-existence and peace.

Hence, it is essential for human resource professionals to be responsible for other people to acknowledge this fundamental truth and rise to this occasion while genuinely bringing transformational practices. This will mean looking beyond rudimentary activities of HR such as recruitment, induction, performance, policing, partnering or even the new kid the block, 'adding value for business'.

It will be about thinking exponentially, thinking disruptively, intensifying R&D in human behaviour, bringing strong and compelling perspective to balance the so called economic prosperity, shareholder returns with spirituality, true happiness, environmental harmony and keeping the focus on people at the heart of all decisions. Let us start thinking of a new beginning at least in the interest of our children and their children; because we owe it to them.

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