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Ideas that Should be Retired in Human Resources

I love the Freakonomics podcast, especially a recent one on ideas that should be retired in science. http://freakonomics.com/2015/03/05/this-idea-must-die-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/ Of course, this got me thinking about ideas that should be retired in HR. Here’s my shot at it:

1. Data will give us all the answers – In the podcast they discuss the fact that relying solely on data limits our ability to go deeper into relationships and understanding. Of course, data related to hiring or turnover or performance or compliance can be valuable, but it’s simply a starting point. So what if we find that most employees tend to leave our company at 2.8 years of employment. What meaning does that data have? To what extent have we had real conversations with people who have left the company at that time? Bottom line is not to rely solely on data because it seldom has all the answers and can remove us from common sense as well as deeper inquiry.

2. Performance appraisals actually improve performance. Dr. Deming began attacking this idea after World War II. He believed that performance evaluations were more destructive than beneficial of performance. Instead of performance appraisals he instituted kaizen, otherwise known as continuous improvement. He simply asked the question how can we do a better moving forward? What would it take for us to do a perfect job? Instead of performing to a tolerance (i.e. you’ve got to get at least three out of five on your performance evaluation) why don’t we ask how everybody can get fives?

3. HR needs to be strategic and get a seat at the table. I’ve had many conversations about what it means to be “strategic.” The problem is after a 15-year conversation about it, it’s a worn-out metaphor. So what if you don’t get a seat at a table, does that mean you’re somehow less effective? Perhaps you don’t even deserve or want a seat at the table. What’s really most important is whether or not you’re doing the HR job up to your full potential. That’s what really matters. Maybe we should substitute the term the full potential HR executive in place of the strategic HR executive.

What ideas do you think need retirement?