Why We Need HR Rebels with Tidy Haircuts, Angels with Dirty Faces

Guest Contributorby Perry Timms | Posted | Leadership

Why We Need HR Rebels with Tidy Haircuts, Angels with Dirty Faces

Today’s post comes from Perry Timms, a skilled facilitator, coach and mentor qualified in change and a range of psychometric tools. Perry contributed to the TalentSpace blog a few months ago and we’re happy to have him back. In this post Perry discusses why HR needs to become more comfortable taking risks if it wants to build an aligned, engaged workforce.

We, as human beings, are marvelous, audacious and mystifying.

We can bring light, but this also casts shadows. Even when we're trying to do something good, others can perceive it as wrong. And sometimes we play the shadow role, tearing down the good others are trying to accomplish.

It's like that in HR. We put policies or programs in place to protect people from wrong, and we're accused of being the "thought police". We stimulate others through great learning interventions, then we're battered with "but what's the ROI?" And sometimes we limit the growth and creativity of others, with our critiques and limiting people practices.

It seems as though in HR, we suffer from this more than in other professional spheres. So we stop taking risks.

We can though, be HR rebels with tidy haircuts and angels with dirty faces.

Finding challenges and inspiration

We are challenged, excited and dismayed at times by what goes on at work, across workplaces, and in places where we provide toil, labor, care and attention.

We are equally challenged, excited and dismayed by the people we work with, are connected with through our professional circles, and who we follow through our digital social networks.

And it's those relationships that will see us through, spark our most brilliant moments and frustrate the heck out of us. Especially, it seems, in HR.

In our field, you'll find:

  • The soft and fluffy professional
  • The certified happy-clappers
  • Mediocre masses stumbling around looking for a purpose
  • Architects of learning frameworks building excellence in people
  • Agitators of a values-based recovery of true meaning at work
  • Charlatans peddling populist theories built of rhetorical claptrap
  • Liberators of people-powered success and saviors of the world of work?
  • And HR rebels with tidy haircuts; angels with dirty faces.

Somewhere in amongst this plethora of people, purpose motives and actions lies better, good, worthiness.

Why you need to be an HR rebel

Work is due for a huge shake-up. Work is a busted flush. Work is a broken record. Work is a skipping CD. Work is a faulty download.

Work, and everything about it, needs a serious overhaul and radicalized approach to change for the better.

No, this is not some happy-clappy ideal saying "Let's all be like Semco".

It’s a cry of "let's not be like Toxic, Inc. anymore".

We need those HR rebels; those angels with dirty faces.

Whether it's the nature of automated tracking of employees in Wishlist Realisation Centre PLC; to the games played to be a partner in Sue, Grabbit & Run LLP; to the turn up, tune out, clock in of the Calls R Us Handling Bureau, work needs something different, radical and with more meaning.

It’s the only way to truly build a workforce that wants to be present; with employees who want to support the goals of your organization.

Think you're an HR rebel?

You may be the corporate version of John Cooper Clarke, Vivienne Westwood, Afrika Bambaata or Quentin Tarantino, or you may be a Pink Floyd "...brick in the wall".

Someone's rebel hero is another's pretentious prankster. Let's look at a few examples:

What Sir Ken Robinson talks and writes of chimes with many. He challenges. He's also a very wealthy individual, so maybe he can afford to be a rebel and stick his neck out. Taking his finances aside, people see, hear and feel someone who pushes alternate views and who isn't afraid to stick 2-fingers up at the establishment whilst still being a Knight of the Realm. Some people though, think he's a heretic. He's a rebel with a tidy haircut.

Martha Lane Fox. A peer. Someone with a background, upbringing and history that might lead you to believe she'd be just another well-to-do achiever. Instead, she's an agitator towards something different and better around digital. A campaigner for greater social good. An angel with a dirty face.

Now admittedly, we have a plethora of plastic pioneers, fake rebels and posing prophets. They don't help the cause. They may have started with good intentions, but somehow became more parody and pariah than perpetrator of true purpose.

But each one of us can play a role in fixing our broken work world. We can be HR rebels.

We need more HR rebels

In HR we need more rebels not fewer — well enough of them to make that REAL change. True HR rebels:

  • Push for real change, have the confidence to speak up, and appreciate rational challenge by those who don't normally challenge
  • Move away from fear and frustration, and use words and actions that signify freedom of thought and act
  • Try their best to enjoy work and life in difficult circumstances, and express themselves in a personally vulnerable, lesson-sharing and issue-illuminating way

None of this is feckless or boring. It's life. People being nice and spreading positivity is not naivety — it's looking for the joy in life to create energy to get through and do better.

If we are persistent in casting shadows, then we may well extinguish what light there is, and it may deter passionate, intelligent people who we need to create the very changes we are calling necessary.

Be a positive force for rebellion

Positive rebellion is full of this:

  • Intellect, challenge, debate — to spur people onto brilliant things
  • Compassionate exchanges, sharing experiences, stimulating thoughts
  • Firm, focused, fair comments
  • Opinions, outspokenness, honesty — to shape a better future

And we need all this to advance HR and the changes desperately needed for work to work.

Your turn: When it comes to the future of HR, how to you think HR professionals need to shake things up? 

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