A Dear John Letter to HR

from Reimagining The Future

Nahal Yousefian is a Chief Human Resources Officer. She reached out recently to discuss her passion for disrupting the Human Resources function. She has moved from conforming in the system to learning about and experimenting with more effective models of organizational design, capability, and ultimately psychology. She pointed out that many systems and structures were designed precisely to reinforce a centralized, command and control flow of work versus an agile and responsive model. She has reframed her personal purpose at work and strives to create the world of work anew.

I will let her tell you the rest of the story in this brilliant Dear John letter that she wrote to HR. Every function, every institution, every mental model could benefit from a similar letter. It is my continued hope that more people like Nahal make it their personal purpose to think differently about these fossils from our past. Enjoy her letter.

More here.

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One Comment

  1. It’s incredible how an industry, over time, can miss the forest for the trees through their own efforts to set standards and build legitimacy. This letter speaks to how HR is intended to serve the communication between employers and employees but somewhere along the way made the relationship merely defined by rigid buzzwords with no real intention behind them. The article emphasized the harm of “autopilot leadership” and what HR has done to encourage it, building a system that turns employees to points on a timeline and managers to nothing more than buzzword-spitting machines who might as well be replaced with the next AI that comes through the door. What Diana is writing about is a question that should be asked to all industries and sectors: how are we better than machines? In an age where potential automation looms closer and closer, there is a need to have discussions about why a job is better suited for humans and whether humanity as a whole would be happier performing that job. For example, diamond mining in deep caverns would be a task better suited for a completely automated worker and humanity as a whole would be better off without the human exploitation that comes with that industry, machines make the world better. Diana poses this question to HR, arguing that with the way that things are being made linear and concrete takes away from the important need for humans to be managers. From my perspective, within the modern age, good managers are needed to make things that are route and instead build products and services that are truly dynamic and human-centric. While a machine might be able to hold employees to quotas and quickly determine who needs to be spoken too due to underperformance, that same machine is incapable of knowing the most important part of any company: it’s vision in terms of human impact. Sure, it may be able to have the vision memorized but the determination of how that vision should impact the employees on the day to day, that’s the role of good management. My fear, that Diana emphasizes in this letter, is that with each “industry standard” buzzword that goes into place in management, the individual importance of how an employee contributes to a vision is lessened: the more automated, the less impactful. HR and managers should serve to connect employees to the fundamental goals of the institution they serve and when they are so bogged down with these terms that they aren’t connecting to the feedback that is being provided to them through data and employees. This letter is a welcome and frank warning to what HR should be afraid to be and, indeed, what all fields should be viewing with the utmost concern.

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