How Re-packaging HR makes for more mature flavour

As I join many professionals in starting a new year by presenting the concepts ahead for our industry – and here my 20 hypotheses for HR technologies in 2018 – I would like to offer HR readers a comfort factor and confidence in getting to grips with the latest trends. It is this:

Of stuff apparently new for us to learn, we can generally expect the most-part to comprise stuff we’ve learned before. And often as part of a classical HR training, regardless of era.

The phrase “old wine in new bottles”, the origins of which are an extrapolation of a biblical lesson about keeping new wine to new bottles and nothing to do with old wine, tends to suggest some kind of deceptive practice. Put old wine in new bottles and we are dressing up something unchanged, presented as if new.

In recent months, it has struck me how this plays out in our working world. And particularly when it comes to the presentation of people management concepts in the context of an increasingly digital world. I began to talk about ‘related concepts’ to help those I’m working with understand. In 2018, I’d like to do some more of this.

Read on for some examples, but first up, please understand from me…

3 reasons why a re-packaging of HR is no deception and does add a value:

  1. We re-brand with intent; we make a deliberate move to imply and lead with differing emphasis. This is a valid thing to do.
  2. We re-bottle in new technologies, the capabilities of which warrant pointing out an advancement. This too is something distinctly different.
  3. We re-package to advertise; knowing that advertising works to draw attention and to motivate.

Each of these show clearly that our metaphorical ‘old wine’ has developed a greater maturity and perhaps a different flavour.

Take comfort from appreciating that most of new things you know already – to give you the confidence to ask about the bits that you don’t! This might free you to demand more interrogatively of your system providers and experts.

Here are some examples:

  • Consumerisation of HR I was invited to speak on in 2017. This was the moment that I was sufficiently struck by how throw-away words in a throw-away society risked preventing the progressiveness with which I do believe most HR leaders are well-equipped to work. Consumerisation is a great concept! And it is one closely linked to work-life integration, the digital mindset etc.
  • Take that good-old traditional discipline of recruitment and selection. That’s as I trained in it some 20 years ago! Since then we’ve styled as Talent and we see moves ahead to make that more about marketing. People Marketing again is a great concept and it conveys the need for the employer sell. All too true.
  • In the training space, note the increased focus on micro-learning, participant-driven (or user-led) learning, self-serveor social learning. These ideas relate closely to older ideas about blended learning and the offer of a variety of delivery methods. Secondly, they remind of that terribly traditional model of learning styles. Training is a great example of where to see how knowing a fundamental – that people learn as individuals – should drive a demand for new tech.
  • The best of ‘old wine’ maturing, and it’s doing so apace, surely has to be that of analytics. Look at the gentle journey away from reporting and into analytics and into twists and tweaks of that, such as People Science. I really like People Science for its renewed emphasis on how business questions are answered to by people, without a direct relevance to the internal operations of the HR department itself.

There are others: equality and diversity to inclusion, SMAC and VUCA never disappearing but waning into the digitally-driven of 2017. Connectedness and collaboration from the basics of teamwork and cross-functional or matrix working.

What about our very own job titles? When HR emerged from Personnel, which in the UK really began in the 1980s, not a great deal changed but, yes, we tried to change focus and also to increase others’ focus on our value. The same is true as departments self-style as People departments.

This is not unique to HR. I’m suggesting that a key benefit to re-bottling HR old wine is to adapt to the digital world and cloud. But cloud itself is a re-brand. Cloud-based technology is distinguished from web-based application delivery by some pretty blurry lines (which I do not attempt to explain!) Cloud is web evolved.

So, as you read my own trends watch for 2018 and those of others, perhaps of higher profile and using even bigger buzzwords, take heart HR: if you think you don’t understand, you probably do!

One of my New Year professional resolutions is to keep pointing out the related concepts from the past. Remind me.

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