Think about your typical HR department or typical HR person. Does the word innovator come to mind? For most of you probably not, it doesn’t for me. HR is often more concerned with the status quo or the best practice. HR is more concerned about not breaking the rules, after all HR is the keeper of the handbook and policy manual. HR helped develop those rules to make the workplace a more sane and orderly place in which to do business.
In his book Future Smart, futurist James Canton describes the four mindsets you will find in any workplace. These are the Traditionalist, the Maintainer, the Adapter and the Trailblazer. How does HR fall in relation to these mindsets?
The Traditionalist gives you the reasons things should not change. They are the overt resisters of change and see no reason to innovate. I have known many HR practioner that would be described this way.
The Maintainer is the person that on the outside says yes but they mean no. They are fearful of change but don’t want to be perceived as being resistant. They slow down innovation all the time. They want to study things longer or don’t think the group is ready for change. I have come across these people as well during my tenure in HR.
The Adapter is someone who is ready to change as long as that change provides value and solutions. They are not “change for change’s sake” kind of people. They realize things need to change, but as Canton says, “they are reluctant change agents.” These are the HR people that get new systems put in place. They are the ones that get that legacy HRIS updated and coordinated with an applicant tracking system. They are the ones that have started to use Twitter and LinkedIn to find new candidates. They are the ones that realize that maybe texting is the way to communicate with Millennials and have started to develop a method of doing so. They are the ones that read about “progress” companies and start to think “maybe we should try that.”
The Trailblazer, according to Canton, leads change. They are the innovators in your organization. Canton describes the way innovators think as :
They are open. They explore. They envision the future, have long-term forecasts, are not afraid of breaking rules, and are above all else, they are courageous, even in the face of failure, criticism, and disaster. They have the capacity to change Fast, fail Fast, and succeed Fast. They are always looking for opportunity to embrace emerging innovations to create value.
Fortunately the HR profession has some of these people too, but far too few. There are organizations that are doing new things with people. They are creating new ways to find, recruit, engage, communicate, and help people grow. Typically these HR leaders are teamed with a CEO who is also a trailblazer. Without that combination a Trailblazer in HR will become frustrated and leave, or the organization will become frustrated with them and force them out. That is how consulting companies are created.
Which describes you and your organization?
After reading this go look in the mirror. Ask yourself “Which am I?” Decide if you are ok with that description. If you are in the first two groups or work for an organization that can be described that way then the likelihood is that neither will be around for the long-term.
Trailblazers in business are needed today. The speed of change in technology, in knowledge, in methods and in the world requires us to have a Trailblazer mentality. If you are not there you need to think about what you need to do to change. Otherwise you have to think about what you have to do to survive. Which do you want?
Image Credit: Stuart Miles