Why HR is Losing Culture

HR is losing culturePeter Drucker’s wisdom is still profoundly important: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

But what drives culture? Who owns it? Culture is made up of shared vision, values and beliefs, norms, language, stories and narratives, and the people, places, and tools that turn all that into shared actions. Most often, the founder or CEO sets the tone for and directs the culture, and HR plays a key role in driving, enforcing, and amplifying it.

No longer.

HR Has Lost its Daily Impact on Culture

While it’s still crucial in hiring the right people who embody and live a company’s culture, and in being the bad behavior police, when it comes to daily execution, HR has become an irrelevant middleman.

This shift intensified ten years ago, with the release of the first iPhone. Since then, the quantum leaps made in personal devices combined with social media have radically altered our ability, as consumers and citizens, to eliminate middlemen when it comes to sharing our visions, values, stories, and driving them into shared actions.

That’s happening in the corporate world too.

The new cultural driver: Corporate IT. With the consumization of ITdesign thinking, bringing social media tools and norms inside corporate firewalls, and, in the very near future, the dawn of the Artificial Intelligence Era, the tools we use to get our work done are becoming our cultural norms and drivers. (Doubt that? Think about your smartphone. Who or what is relentlessly pushing new conversation norms? Is it you? Your boss? Your coworkers? Your mom? Or is it your favorite apps and 24×7 mobile access?)

How Did HR Lose the Battle for Culture?

In researching my 2001 book, Work 2.0, I uncovered four rules for the future of work through the 2020s. Three of them are directly linked to what HR could have done but didn’t.

  •  Embrace the Asset Revolution. Among the most valuable assets any of us have are our time and attention. From the workforce’s perspective: The future of work and the new war for talent is about delivering greater returns to every individual on their investments of time, attention, knowledge, and passions. That means being a much greater advocate for the workforce and their needs.

HR continues to suck at this. (See 2005 Fast Company cover story, Why We Hate HR.) While there are many great exceptions… Overall, when it comes to the Asset Revolution: HR remains mostly corporate-centered, not workforce-centered.

  •  Build MyWorkMyWay. The future is tailored learning, tailored information flows, tailored coaching — individualized to each person’s needs to help them be their best. HR had their chance to push for this, and mostly didn’t. Now IT is stepping into this role.
  •  Deliver Peer-to-Peer Value. Same as above. HR had its chance and blew it. Now IT is stepping in.

What Can HR Do Now to Fix This?

  •  Embrace the Asset Revolution. The future of work includes being a much greater advocate for the workforce’s work needs. Be disruptive heroes. Push for radical changes in workforce-centered productivity and learning designs. Grow a pair.
  •  Partner with IT in a Supporting Role. The future of daily culture is all about how peer-to-peer value is created. HR lost this turf a while ago. IT now mostly owns it. Embrace being second chair for a while. Your best shot in regaining first chair is in MyWorkMyWay learning and development.
  •  Build MyWorkMyWay. Again: For now, you’ll be supporting IT. Once learning and doing are a lot more tailored, customized, and personalized — people will be able to shed their 39-hour-a-day overloaded behaviors, and actually live the culture that’s envisioned in your HR strategic plans.

 Originally published by the Huffington Post

Bill Jensen

Bill Jensen

Bill Jensen is the foremost thought-leader on workplace simplicity, an IBM Futurist, and author of eight best-selling books. He has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and The Wall Street Journal. As Mr. Simplicity, his mission is to make it easier to do great work and to hack stupid work. His research includes interviews and surveys with over one million people around the globe. He is CEO of the change consulting firm, The Jensen Group. You can contact Bill through email (bill@simplerwork.com) or his website.

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