Technology is eating the world.
Everything – and I don’t say this with any hyperbole – is technology.
Even the human stuff we do every day (or should do every day) is a function of technology. I’m almost positive if HR (and business in general) didn’t have email, SMS, or slack we wouldn’t know how to get a hold of someone to have a face-to-face meeting. I mean, I can’t just walk up to someone and ask, can I? Doesn’t that violate some social norm? I’m pretty sure it does.
And it is not just the application of the technology that is influencing how we work and what we do–the processes of ideating, designing, planning, and creating technology is influencing how work is getting done. I know in my own work with incentive program design and engagement planning we use many of the same tools programmers use to develop their user experiences – Sprints, Design Thinking, etc. I’ve yet to find a place where solving a business problem can’t benefit from the techniques and ideas proven and used in designing technology solutions.
And HR should be pacing these ideas and trends and adopting them as fast as they can.
What kind of things should HR be paying attention to?
Design Thinking/Human-Centered Design
Believe it or not, design thinking has its roots all the way back in 1959 but was probably made famous by the design studio IDEO (they offer free courses on how to use design thinking btw.) Key elements include the idea of “empathy” – understanding the user’s point of view and needs/wants and rapid prototyping – testing possible solutions before cementing them into practice. Think about HR and management in general – empathy should be THE pillar of great HR. The idea of prototyping is harder to envision but think in terms of testing ideas quickly in small groups to assess efficacy and adoption. Do you do this? You should.
Design sprints were popularized by Google in the book “Sprint – How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days.” Yeah… big promise right? Well, my own experience with sprints for building our own reward/engagement/incentive platform made me a believer. So much so, I’ve created and conducted a variety of sprints for my clients and can vouch for their success rate, and in most cases, breakthrough results. Sprints typically follow a specific flow over a five-day period – understand, diverge/sketch, decide, prototype, validate. My recommendation – don’t try to follow this too closely. A lot of HR problems and organizational problems, in general, are difficult to “sketch” but do try to work most of the steps. Read the book. Understand the concepts and then remix and create what works for you. The sprints I’ve designed and run for my clients don’t follow the exact formula of the book – but they do include many of the concepts. Your job is to adapt it – not adopt it.
Almost every sprint or design project I’ve been involved with included a huge amount of brainstorming, and I used to think I knew what brainstorming was. That is until I started trying to follow the technology design trends and saw all the various ways we could – as a group – get ideas out on the page and breakthrough to new and different ways of thinking about old problems. I’ve amassed a boat-load of links to many different brainstorming and idea-generating techniques. HR needs to have these tools in their tool chest as well. There are many books available to you on how to brainstorm and facilitate ideation sessions. Some of my favorites include Gamestorming and Idea Stormers. Big help. Get them. Read them.
Let’s face it – HR is becoming less about ensuring compliance to the past/present and more of a function creating the future.
We know the speed of change outside our organization is already at Warp 11 and accelerating. How does HR – initially designed as a practice in a world where things change at a snail’s pace – keep up? I think Agile can help.
Agile was initially a software development process that leveraged cross-functional teams (including customers in many cases) and focused on getting something working first and then responding and adapting over time vs. sticking with a long-term plan designed at the onset. It’s not chaos – but it is managing at the edges of chaos in my mind.
What Agile really is, for my work and for HR, is a mindset that says – “Things change too fast to create a plan for 5 years and stick to it. I need to plan out as far as I can, comfortably make market assumptions about what will happen, and then create ongoing points of review to adjust the plan.”
Agile isn’t as comforting as checking boxes on an MSProject plan that ends in 2022 but it does allow you to be much more responsive to the market and the issues you currently face vs. issues you “thought” you might face but didn’t.
Unfortunately, for you introverts, this might require much more face-to-face interaction (and you thought technology would solve everything).
While I’m not a programmer or a tech designer, I am a student of organization and how work gets done. And work today requires a faster feedback loop and a quicker creation cycle. It also requires more collaboration with users and those impacted by the change. These are just a few of the ways the tech world is adapting.
And I think it is a great starting point for any HR professional (heck – any manager) to learn how they can be more efficient and effective.
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