Emperor’s new clothes leave HR flapping in breeze

If you’re attending a conference this season, there’s a fairly big chance that the keynote speaker will be an HR or management ‘guru’. These (usually American) experts and academics have written books about their own unique theories, and some have provided frameworks around which many HR departments are structured. These gurus travel the world espousing their concepts and catchphrases, and some admit to being paid “obscene” amounts for their appearances.

I once sat through a presentation by a supposedly influential management expert who had written a bestselling book a few years back. His delivery didn’t engage me at all, and I felt the core of his argument was bare common sense dressed up in baffling jargon.

At the end, many HR professionals in the audience were nodding in agreement that he was fantastic. Frankly, I didn’t buy it, and said so. In response, some people whispered that, actually, they thought the same, but were reluctant to speak up for fear of sounding ignorant. A clear case of the emperor’s new clothes.

Whether these experts deliver any bottom-line benefits, and if they are worth their astronomical fees, are the questions at the heart of our ‘HR thinkers’ special.

Applying the theory is one thing; regurgitating the jargon is something completely different – and does HR no favours in the eyes of senior business leaders.

Eastern promise delivers

The fact that Eastern European employees provide reliable, affordable labour has been kept hidden like some shady secret for the past few years – stifled by the fear of negative headlines and commercial damage. But that attitude appears to have shifted, and there is now less of a stigma about migrant labour.

So it looks like the HR departments that put productivity before publicity – and who got creative with those hard-to-fill jobs – clearly got their priorities right.

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