Embrace change…and a little chaos

chaos“I accept chaos, I’m not sure whether it accepts me.”

Bob Dylan

The future is scary. It’s rushing at us and it’s as if we’re not even keeping pace today let alone preparing ourselves for tomorrow.

To further complicate matters, the tendency of some – not all – who work in human resources, honed after years of practice, is to hunker down, pretend that change is not coming, and keep maintaining the status quo for as long as possible.

I’m not making that up. I meet HR professionals who, even after implementation, are hoping and praying that the Affordable Care Act will go away. I talk to HR practitioners who gripe about the burdens brought on by the Family and Medical Leave Act…and the FMLA has been around since 1993.

Employee reviews on Glassdoor. The rise of the contract worker. The demands for remote work and flexibility. The globalization of talent. The economic demands of underdeveloped nations. Politics. Wearable tech. Robots. Generation Z.

For some it’s all too overwhelming.

It can be somewhat comforting in this volatile environment for HR professionals to want to go back to the basics and focus on legislative updates, benefit plan utilization reports, 401(k) administration, and the doling out of annual performance reviews.

But you can’t retreat to the comfort of the familiar.  Your CEO doesn’t close the door and refuse to pay attention to trends. Your CFO is checking the markets and conferring with financial advisors to make projections on where to invest the corporation’s assets. Your CMO, originally terrified of Twitter and Facebook circa 2010, quickly learned that she will no longer be the only one controlling the company’s message.

Put your ear to the ground.

“But I am,” you protest (I can hear you). “I belong to my local SHRM chapter and go to monthly meetings and get updates. I read that HR Magazine they send me in the mail each month. Once a year I go to a legislative conference so I know what’s been proposed on the state and federal levels.”

That’s not enough.

I want you to explore and learn and be aware about issues going on in the economy, politics, and the technology sector. I want you to pay attention to consumer trends and pop culture. I don’t care if your favorite musical genre continues to be 80’s hairband music (Guns N’ Roses forever!) and you’ve made the statement that what passes for music today is crap; if your employees are tuning in to Common and Pro Era you best have them on your radar because your references to Will Smith as a hip hop artist are not going to cut it.

I’m not even going to talk here about the need to know your business and industry. That’s a given. If I hear one more HR pundit trot out that tired old line as if it’s some sort of earth-shattering revelation I am going to, perhaps quite literally, stab someone with a fork. Obviously if you work in the restaurant industry, you best hustle your butt into the restaurant and work a shift or two. If you work in banking you best understand how bankers categorize assets. Oil and gas? I want you to be able to talk, with some degree of understanding, about supply, demand and how pricing per barrel occurs. You get the picture.

But what I’m talking about goes far beyond that. Listen…

  • I run into HR professionals who have no idea who is running for national office in their district. “I don’t like politics so I don’t pay attention.”
  • I know HR leaders who have never heard of Glassdoor or other similar sites…even though their company has scathing reviews listed. “They can do what on what website?” 
  • I encounter HR practitioners who don’t pay attention to the changing workforce demographics and the rise of independent workers. They don’t comprehend how wearable tech and the “quantified self” is not just coming to the workplace but has arrived. They think they will use robots and data and technology on their terms instead of realizing that their lives are already affected.

“ I don’t have time,” they lament. “I’ve got work and my kids and my family. I sing in the choir every Sunday and we have choir practice on Wednesday nights and soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

C’mon now; don’t be that guy/gal.

I want you to be wildly curious about everything. Subscribe (or read the free versions…there are plenty out there) to Fast Company, Forbes, and the Harvard Business Review. Peruse Architectural Digest and Popular Science and Psychology Today. Check out Rolling Stone (yeah…sometimes it’s still relevant), Politico, and your local newspapers. If you live in the US watch the BBC News. Explore your town. Drive to the neighboring city and take a walk. Ask questions. Seek answers.

I want you to look forward … not backward.

I want you to welcome the future … not run from it.

I want you to embrace change … and a little chaos.

“Chaos in the midst of chaos isn’t funny, but chaos in the midst of order is.”

Steve Martin


2 thoughts on “Embrace change…and a little chaos

  1. Reading it is one thing. Applying that knowledge is completely different, and it’s strange how many people don’t seem to get that.

    I support a group of executives. I hear one complain about all the remote workers we have, all the people who use flex time and aren’t here on Fridays, and he wants to crack down on that, cut back on the number of remote workers we have, and bring people back to the office. Because he personally doesn’t like conference calls or email.

    There is not a voice to say “these are basically low to no cost benefits we can offer to attract great talent to our organization” – because the C-suite rules unchallenged, in this case. I’m not saying it’s easy to stand up for change, and I’m not even saying it will come this year, or next year, or whenever. But some roles can have that flexibility, and it can make up for a lot of other things.

    But it’s about understanding workplace trends, acknowledging the changing nature of the way we work, and being able to articulate that in more than just “people aren’t going to like this” words. Embracing chaos, working positively through change (without sounding like you’ve drunk the Mission Statement Kool-Aid) is important for all of us, but very important for HR.

  2. Amen, sister. A month or so ago Laurie Ruettimann wrote a post talking about employment branding and saying that it’s the same thing as buying employees 2 ply toilet paper. The uproar that it created in a private Facebook group was interesting, and I pressed on suggesting that these individuals leave a comment or just talk publicly about their opinion. They were just very blah about it. These are practitioner leaders at large organizations and their attitude was surprising. People need to openly discuss, debate, learn and engage in order to actually change.

    That’s what I want from people in HR and recruiting. I want them to do better. I want them to feel anger if they aren’t the best company leader in the room. I want them to be driven to be the best and not just mediocrity. I want them to want to be and do the best. That means doing the work, taking risk and just taking a couple chances even if it’s as simple as adding two ply toilet paper to the supply list for Q3. I want them to think about measuring the impact their change had on the company how small or large it might be.


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