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Disruptive HR: An innovation long overdue PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard J. Anthony, Sr.   
Thursday, 24 May 2012 14:35

Take a minute to search “disruptive HR” on the Internet.  You won't find a single reference to how the HR function or HR professionals are taking disruptive initiatives to add value to the organization, its constituents and to the bottom line.


Hard to imagine, after all the years that HR professionals have been seeking the path to greater respectability as credible members of the management team, that someone wouldn't have coined the phrase “disruptive HR” to describe the solution.


Given the challenges employers face today and for the foreseeable future, it's time for more HR professionals to be disruptive; to replace the conventional ways of managing human capital with innovative approaches that are measured in outcomes, not just output.


Start with the basics


As with any venture, disruptive HR begins with an attitude, guided by keen judgment and enabled by core competencies applied to a set of processes to achieve specific, measurable outcomes.


The requisite core competencies include:

  • Inquisitiveness and remaining open to new and better ideas;
  • Critical thinking and the ability to quickly discard irrelevant information;
  • Foresight to see the likely outcomes of various courses of action;
  • Communication skills and the ability to engender excitement and confidence;
  • Business acumen and a strong desire to continue to learn about the fundamentals of starting and growing a business;
  • Attracting and collaborating with others to execute an action plan.

Learn from entrepreneurialism

The continual mantra that HR must shift from low-value transactions to higher value strategy, combined with the nation's obsession with entrepreneurialism, creates an exciting opportunity for HR professionals to apply the principles and techniques of disruptive entrepreneurship to the management of human capital.  In the truest sense, to partner with other resource managers to create a competitive advantage in a fiercely competitive, rapidly changing environment.


The question is, "Should HR professionals put themselves and their jobs at risk by adopting disruptive approaches to managing human capital, especially in a soft economy and a protracted period of cost reduction and cost control?"  I believe that for many the answer is a resounding yes, or face replacement or extinction.


I am not advocating recklessness or vocational suicide.  Not every organization is a candidate for disruptive HR, nor does every HR practitioner have the instincts or desire to be a risk taker.  For those who are inclined, there is an approach successful disruptive entrepreneurs follow that can HR professionals can emulated.


Prepare and execute


First, plan the work:

  • Identify a specific need (causes nor symptoms) within the organization requiring an innovative solution;
  • Gauge senior management's willingness to invest in an innovative solution that addresses the cause(s) not the symptoms;
  • Define the resource requirements and assess the competition within the organization for the resources required to develop and implement an innovative solution.  Don't compete for resources. Be creative in thinking of ways to share limited resources;
  • Calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) using reasonable assumptions and accepted financial models;
  • Determine the probability of success and develop a contingency strategy if key milestones are not met;
  • Define success beforehand and get agreement on the metrics that, when met, will be accepted as a win;
  • Keep an open mind about whether HR will continue to own the project or facilitate a handoff to another function or department or outsource when policies and procedures are in place.

Second, work the plan:

  • Prepare a concise executive summary using a format similar to the templates entrepreneurs use to introduce a concept and make the case for its viability and funding worthiness;
  • Prepare a business plan, again using a format familiar to the other members of the management team;
  • Raise capital, i.e. build alliances with internal support/investors;
  • Consistently monitor and report progress against milestones;
  • Be prepared to adapt to changes in circumstances and recalibrate based on new information.
Foster the right attitude

An important point made previously is that disruptive HR begins with an attitude. Here are some tips on how to develop and nurture a disruptive attitude:

  • Take the blinders off and get out of the HR space periodically:
    - Attend meetings in your industry unrelated to HR;
    - Make a special effort to learn about other management functions. I have found that the two most powerful sentences in building bridges and relationships are "Help me understand" and "How can I help?"
  • Follow the trends in:
    - health care
    - economics
    - technology
    - social sciences
    - world affairs
  • Learn to use analytics to guide decision-making.
  • Create a learning environment:
    - Require your staff to keep learning;
    - Encourage and reward initiative and innovation.

My hope is that some time soon, I will see a seminar, web cast, conference, book or keynote speech with the title "How HR Can Take Its Seat at the Management Table: A Guide to Disruptive HR."


RICHARD J. ANTHONY, SR., is founder and managing director of The Solutions Network Inc., specializing in organization effectiveness and performance improvement.  His book, “Organizations, People & Effective Communication,” is available on Amazon.  He has 35 years of management consulting experience and is a member of the faculty at Villanova University where he is also Entrepreneur in Residence at the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. Reach him at 610.225.0277 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 May 2012 14:57

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