The big issue for HR managers is to provide value to business, and specifically line managers, and even more top executives. It’s a matter of life or death, after all, once companies are trying their best to improve operational efficiency, why should they maintain expensive HR departments? Outsourcing the most of administrative stuff, choosing experienced consultants, they might get along with just a couple of employees.
That is why HR managers are desperately trying to demonstrate how they are giving value, by way of new metrics and a constant dedication to business issues. The cornerstone of their strategy, though, poses on very unstable basis: the idea that we can actually and really manage people, change their behaviors, and exhort a strong influence by doing this on the attainment of business goals. Hold on a minute, do you really think we can do that? Nope. Human behavior is much more complex than the implicit behaviorist assumptions of most of existing HR practices, most of the time we believe we exhort influence, though we have no proof of it.
However, by devoutly performing their role with other managers, HR managers reinforce that false belief to the point that managers develop a hidden belief in their strength in changing the world, by changing what people think, believe, and feel. The net effect is a self reinforcing prophecy, which brings to aggrandizing managers’ self perceptions at the expenses of employees.
What then? I personally think and keep observing in business settings that the time of management is over. We need to carefully think that what we called management will soon be offset by a wide social and economic movement aiming at regaining control of large institutions, be them companies or states as well. Gone the days where lone riders made the headlines with their bold moves, time has come for realizing that at the roots of our society lies an enormous and continuous effort for cooperation, and that cooperation needs to take its central stage. That’s why HR managers have to carefully rethink their strategies. Sure, it is not yet the time to overthrow the corporate boardroom, but they should be the first to realize that enablement is the new golden rule for successful companies. Enabling cooperation, enabling innovation, enabling cross border relations to customers, suppliers, and even competitors, enabling people to regain control of the meaning of their work.
Am I an utopian? That’s the easy way out if you want to narrow your sight and pretend nothing is happening.