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Some trendy movements in HR just don’t live up to the hype
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Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few years, you've probably been inundated with information about the concept of "disruption." According to this new movement, disruptive forces are absolutely everywhere, doing almost universal good. I embrace change more than most people, but the ubiquitous calls to "disrupt" just make me want to erupt—in protest. Such movements, especially in HR, are rarely helpful, and they seldom deliver.
Disruptive forces have been around since the inception of modern commerce. They have played a key role in the creation and sustainability of enterprises. They have driven significant shifts in the way consumers act and live. Think back to Sears, Roebuck & Company, which pioneered the mail-order catalog in the 20th century. People could order anything from it, from a new frying pan to a new house, and have it delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. The Sears catalog was that era's equivalent of Amazon, and it just as dramatically disrupted the merchandising status quo. If not for that venerable company's various missteps over the years, we might still be getting all of our consumer goods from Sears—its online catalog, of course—instead of through same-day drone delivery from Amazon. Uber is another example: Without its disruption of the taxi industry, we would still need to hail cabs on the street instead of being able to use our phones to get a ride.
Like consumer goods and services, HR is also susceptible to disruptive forces. We've seen the advent of automated HR processing, strategic divisions in the profession, the rise of subspecialties (talent management in large enterprises, for instance), and new-age meeting groups (such as the aptly named DisruptHR). My job is to track trends in HR and assist in the evolution of the profession to ensure that we're all working toward better practices. I embrace change and welcome technological revolution. (I'm one of those people who wait in line for every new iPhone.) I have personally been involved in building buy-in for several seismic HR change initiatives over the course of my career.
But are disruptive movements in business truly rooted in better HR practice? I think not. And now I'll erupt with some specific reasons:
Lastly, I take issue with the disruption movement because it makes me feel like a crotchety old man yelling at the kids to get off my lawn. My distaste might be ameliorated if the concept was really couched in innovating and advancing rather than simply disrupting. There needs to be some agreement on the true meaning of each "next big thing," its objectives and how it will affect change. Until then, I'll just sit here in my rocking chair … about to erupt.
Tell us about your experiences. How have disruptive business movements affected you and your organization? Has disruption made day-to-day operations more efficient? What would you like to see from these types of movements? Let me know on Twitter at @SHRMKnwldgeSVP.
Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, is SHRM's senior vice president, knowledge development and certification.
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