HR and Culture – the never ending melodrama

There was a time when HR was the king of the organisation, hiring and firing people, being the disciplinarian generating fear and awe, deciding on what stays and what goes, making arbitrary rules that instil fear and discipline. That also lead to puns and memes which till today blame anything negative in an organisation on HR. As the times progressed, HR has started to play the role of a custodian, divesting much of its power to the business, asking leaders to take on more accountability and ownership. HR moved to strategic initiatives but continued to deliver on the entire lifecycle from source to exit. With improvements in technology, how long before this question arises – is HR even required?

If business leaders take accountability of the employee’s success, if HRIS and other technical platforms (like Infeedo’s Amber or other R&R platforms) take on the role of the employee database management, leaves, attendance, timesheets, interaction, red flags, etc., if systems manage a fool-proof payroll related activities, and online training platforms using AI, VR and other technology provide the learnings that an employee needs, the HR function and teams are basically redundant. We will probably need a few people from a strategy perspective, and some to run the talent acquisition, but largely HR will cease to be a tactical organization. In such a scenario, who will own the culture?

I have constantly advocated that Operations Managers, Delivery Managers and others need to be held accountable for their teams, as they are the ones that the teams look up to for direction and support. If these leaders are not able to uphold behaviours linked to transparency, fairness, problem resolution, empathy, teamwork etc., then they should not accept results that are extra-ordinary, but be content with the ordinary. Fast forward a decade, all HR processes will be automated in the digital world, with metaverse providing the platform around a simulated world, devoid of humans, in a world run by robots(read tech). While everything linked to employee motivation or culture will also be online, the Manager will play the role of being the custodian of the team, and the validator of the exceptions.

A good work culture does not get created overnight. It takes constant effort, practice and dedication from a large group of people within an organization. A section of the company believing in something and being passionate about it will not help the entire company. Culture change is like a Tsunami, it flows fast, covers a large ground, is relentless and ruthless. Who in an organization has the power to create such an effect?

Ever heard of a business that has been plagued with people issues, like attrition, back-biting, politics, abuse of power, lack of vision, siloed approach, fragmentation, poor principles, ethic violations, etc., and continue to be growing, profitable and high customer satisfaction? This may be possible in a heavily funded product company or a start-up services company where the compensation plays a large role in motivating the employee, but would it be the same if excessive compensation was not the case? I am sure we all know the answer, yet it’s amusing to see senior leaders casually pass the baton of culture management to HR, and divert their focus on the clients and the profit.

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