Time to look at HR through a new lens?

What will the HR professional of the future look like? What skills and qualities will HR people need to help organisations respond to the rapidly changing world of work in ways that create value for businesses, individuals, economies and society?

These are the kind of philosophical questions the CIPD has been examining as part of its ‘Profession for the Future’ project – an on-going initiative which aims to help bring about a shared understanding of what ‘good’ HR looks like.

One of the key messages to emerge is the need for HR people to move away from their dependence on searching out and applying ‘best practice’ – because in uncertain and rapidly changing work environments, those standard approaches are often not fit for purpose.

What the profession needs to do instead, suggests the CIPD, is to think more widely about the high-level principles it should be using to guide its decisions, support the judgements and compromises it has to make and enable it to give trusted and credible advice.

The debate about what these core principles should be is still ongoing – but in the meantime the CIPD has come up with the following list of eight ‘lenses’ practitioners can look through to help inform and guide their decision-making (you can read more detail in the CIPD report ‘From Best to Good Practice HR: Developing Principles for the Profession’)Binoculars

It’s an interesting exercise to think about how you might use these ‘lenses’ in the course of your daily working life – when designing a new performance appraisal programme, putting together a succession plan or thinking about the best way to recruit top talent. And it’s perhaps equally interesting to think about whether the Board would apply the same principles when undergoing a merger, implementing a restructuring or planning for some kind of major change programme.

1. Well-being Lens:

This is based on the idea that workplaces should promote well-being in its widest sense, not just because it increases employee productivity or productivity, but as an outcome in itself. Work should provide individuals with autonomy and happiness.

2. Rights Lens:

Individuals shouldn’t be treated simply as a means to an end. People have a right to be protected from harm and to have a choice over what happens to them. In the workplace, this means the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

3. Merit Lens:

Workplaces should be designed to guarantee equal opportunities based on individual talent and hard work, rather than irrelevant characteristics such as gender, race, sexuality and social class.

4. Fairness as Justice Lens:

In practice, not everyone is able to compete based on their merit. People have unequal access to education and development, for example, and don’t have the same ‘power’ to argue their cause independently. Workplaces should be designed with an eye to those who might end up being the worst off as a result of the decision.

5. Market Lens:

Rather than distributing benefits based on ability and need, people should get what they can freely negotiate. Some people are lucky enough to have scarce qualities and ability to negotiate freely to command higher wages, for example. Others are unfortunate to end up with less, even though they may be no less worthy.

6. Democracy Lens:

People should be able to influence the decisions that affect them. Workplaces should give a right of voice to everyone whose interests are at stake and implement procedures for agreeing decisions collectively.

7. Character Lens:

Decision-makers should demonstrate integrity, despite circumstances that might require compromising the principles. Making choices in a difficult situation is about not following a rule, but doing the ‘right’ thing, something a ‘decent person’ would do.

8. Handing Down Lens:

The long term interests of people, organisations and society are more important than short-term gains. Workplace decisions should look to preserve the past and support the future interests of the people, the business and the communities.

What’s your view? Do you think the eight lenses would help you raise the bar on HR practice in the business? Or do you think some of the principles are unlikely to be embraced by senior leaders who are focused on commercial realities?

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