HR Needs to Hire more Scuba Divers and Astronauts

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I have been extremely critical of the HR profession and the lack of skills present to compete as HR moves from a personality centric profession to one that requires advance knowledge in analytics, information technology, and the transformation in communications as it relates to the Internet, social media, mobile, and supporting analytics. The fact is that of all the areas of a business, HR has been the slowest of departments to adapt to new technology and ways of thinking and organizing.

Clearly HR has undergone enormous transformation in the past few decades and this profession has become critical to the success of organizations. Consider this point: businesses today have easy access to the same technology, benefits programs, and infrastructure as their competitors. The new differentiators that will define winners and losers in the marketplace will be how an organization attracts, manages, and motivates its talent. It appears to this writer that just when HR has emerged as a key department, the talent within HR often lacks the requisite knowledge, skills, and ability to fulfill their organizations mission. My thesis is that in the last decade, when organizations have reinvented, right-sized, downsized, off-shored, out-sourced, and cut expenses to the bone, HR has retrenched as employees stake out their turf while living in continual survival mode.

The challenge is that the exact new ideas and technologies necessary to thrive in today’s environment are not welcomed to an upper leadership class trying to survive until retirement. To break this pattern I have often suggested that HR must go out of its way and hire more Scuba Divers and Astronauts! Specifically I am referring to types of personalities that challenge the existing order, bring forth new ideas, and create an engaging and thriving culture.

What are the characteristics of these 2 personality types:

Scuba Divers are adept and moving between corporate departments, adsorbing knowledge from these groups, and help facilitate alliances between factions. The best “scuba divers” I have seen are typically not folks from a pedigree background, but those who worked in multiple industries and career types.

Astronauts are the folks who never settle, push the boundaries, and keep moving their industry and profession forward. They never settle for medicore and are always willing disrupt common practices to change the industry for the better.

Do these types of individuals exist in your organization? Are they valued and rewarded, or are they moved out quietly in the next round of lay-offs?

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