The Forgotten Topics in HR: UKG Workforce Institute Weigh-In

The Workforce Institute Weigh-In for November 2023: HR covers a lot of areas, and we talk about them a lot. What’s something HR doesn’t talk about enough?

“Our standard mental model for the organization is the machine-like bureaucracy. However, many organizations (like hospitals, consultancies, and family restaurants) are not like that at all. It would be a good exercise to look at Henry Mintzberg’s categorization of organizations in ‘Understanding Organizations...Finally!’ and think about where your organization fits. This more accurate mental model could lead to more clarity about what HR practices are appropriate.” — David Creelman, CEO, Creelman Research

(Editor’s Note: Check back later this month at the UKG Workforce Institute for a special conversation with Henry Mintzberg, featuring advisory board members Nanne Finis and David Creelman.)

“Within the realm of company culture, one aspect that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves in HR discussions is the significance of acknowledging and learning from failures. Amidst the usual topics of policies, performance evaluations, and professional development, the idea of creating a workplace where mistakes are not only tolerated but appreciated is often sidelined. Picture a setting where taking risks isn’t met with apprehension but seen as an opportunity for growth. By emphasizing the lessons derived from failures and considering them as valuable experiences, HR can contribute to a culture that not only encourages individual and team development but also nurtures innovation and resilience. It’s essentially about embracing the learning curve as a crucial part of progress.” — Dr. Jessica Kriegel, chief scientist of workplace culture, Culture Partners

“Emergency preparedness is a topic that should be discussed more. Organizations often think about how to protect their FF&E (furniture, fixtures, and equipment), but more conversation needs to happen on the people side of the business. For example, how will the organization communicate with employees if a natural disaster is imminent? What is the plan for recruiting if the organization is dealing with a public relations challenge? HR departments should have conversations with senior managers about media training and what to do in the case of an emergency. The time to discuss and do all these things isn’t when an emergency happens. It’s before an emergency happens. It might even make sense to have some ‘drills’ to ensure that the organization knows what to do (with a debrief afterward). We need to get past the ‘it probably won’t happen to us’ mentality.” — Sharlyn Lauby, author, HR Bartender blog

“We are not talking enough about AI-driven technology that’s already in the HR marketplace, such as talent intelligence. Talent intelligence harnesses deep learning to assess skills adjacency (if you are good at skill A, you will also be good at skill B) to open non-traditional pathways for candidates who don’t have the experience doing the exact job needed but who have the core capabilities required. It also helps determine current organizational capabilities and future needs by taking into account a global dataset of standardized job descriptions and requirements. Talent intelligence provides the ability to assess skills easily and credibly, so organizations can avoid falling prey to implicit bias that negatively impacts hiring, and it gives HR a pathway to more flexibly redeploy our people in times of disruption (COVID-19 won’t be the last one) and to redesign jobs in keeping with digital transformation.” — Alexandra Levit, co-author, “Deep Talent

“There are plenty of topics that do not seem to get enough visibility, and two are strategic planning and crisis management. The pandemic has reminded all of us that planning for the future can be difficult, even when not working through a worldwide crisis. And yet, strategic planning remains an essential process toward creating a pathway to the future, and HR has a definite role to fill in strategic planning. For example, across the U.S., we have seen an increase in union membership during the last couple of years or so. What role does HR fill toward improving the work environment of their company to result in an employee-friendly culture, to the extent their employees do not need (or desire) union representation? Regarding crisis management and the linkage to leadership: Throughout life and in business, things can and will go wrong, sometimes resulting in a crisis. Over time, ending up in a minor or major business crisis is nearly unavoidable, but the manner in which a person responds during a crisis can make a huge difference. And, this response is nearly always linked to some form of leadership and/or moral courage. What is HR’s role toward programmatically developing leadership skills throughout their company? The first step in either one of these topics is for HR to talk about the need, and value proposition, toward HR consuming time and money in these two important areas. These discussions must happen with their executive teams and throughout the management ranks, which tends to help socialize the path forward, and to prepare those impacted by the related change management processes.” — Dennis Miller, associate vice president, HR and benefits administration, The Claremont Colleges

“We don’t talk enough about the importance of developing people leaders across the organization who are able to address and resolve employee disputes without our [HR] involvement. HR often gets accused of butting into operational issues that should be handled by direct supervisors. The stereotype is that we want to replace the decisions of those leaders with our own judgment. However, the truth is that we are left with no other option but to intervene and give directives when the actual people leader fails to step up or in. HR would much rather be minding our own task and project business — but we can’t when unresolved employee disputes are brought to us. Because, if we don’t intervene, it will cause continued upset and disruption that damages the culture, undermines the policies, and creates liability for the company. When HR works alongside managers who are truly adept and skilled at addressing and resolving employee disputes, our jobs become much easier, and we are able to function more as strategic partners than tactical and transactional pawns. I would love to see us discuss how to cultivate this through training and coaching more frequently.” — Sarah Morgan, director of equity and inclusion, Humareso

“HR sometimes sidesteps the broader ethical implications of business decisions. It’s essential to be brave, speak out, and foster an environment where ethical behavior is the norm. HR can lead this by collaborating with the general counsel and creating a robust code of ethics, ensuring leadership sets a precedent of integrity and integrates ethics into all business processes. Regular training, open communication, and a secure reporting system are all crucial. Peer and companywide recognition of ethical conduct further reinforces this ethos. By prioritizing these practices, HR can cultivate a culture where ethical decision making is a fundamental business pillar.” — Laurie Ruettimann, host, Punk Rock HR podcast