It’s time to disrupt Human Resources if we want talent fit for the digital age

-The rise of HR can be traced back to the dawn of the industrial age.

-The model is outdated if a company is to embrace innovation.

-What would HR look like, if we invented it today?

The worst thing we ever did in corporate America was to take the most vital part of any company – the people powering it – and label it so dismissively as “human resources.”

We reduced talent to a simple asset: one to be standardized, controlled, commoditized, and managed like any other form of capital. We created a department whose sole purpose is to extract value and enforce compliance, and put them in charge of an ecosystem built around formalized processes, sameness, common practices, and conformity.

The result is the institutionalized mediocrity plaguing many legacy companies today. A pandemic that will only become more problematic as we advance into the post-digital age: a world of agile, talent-focused companies that are set up to disrupt, excel and grow.

How we got here

The rise of HR can be traced back to the dawn of the industrial age, and the reason behind its creation is also at the very core of what renders it obsolete today. While easily enforceable in factories and workflows that revolve around uniformity, consistency and minimum deviation from the norm, HR faces existential threats in a world of increasingly intangible labor performed in a digital realm by workers whose motivations extend beyond monetizing their labor, into passion and personal fulfilment.

Businesses have always thrived on the process of making ever slightly better things, in ever improving ways. For centuries, humans have tried to emulate machines: we’ve mastered repetition, following orders, being on time, optimizing ourselves and our outputs.

It’s time to accept that machines are best at being machines and celebrate what being a human is all about: not least our ability to question, challenge and adapt.

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