people co-working together at a table of computers

A New Year, A New HR

At the end of last year, I wrote about what HR means in the HERO sense. If you missed it, check it out here. This will help remind you what you are and how powerful you can be. As we near the end of 2019, I am closing with a David Letterman top 10 list of all of the awful things we can say goodbye to and all of the good things we can welcome as HR professionals in the new year.

There have been some notable changes in the workforce this past year: companies becoming “woke”, high-profile CEO dismissals, and a workplace people transformation with new opportunities ahead of us in 2020. I am so excited about the new and many ways we can help others, knowing that many of the excuses and distractions that hindered us in the past are finally going away for good! This upcoming year will truly be the most transformative year for HR professionals and the companies we lead, serve, and strategize. Here are my thoughts for us in the new year. Enjoy!

What we’re saying goodbye to:

#10: Meaningless perks

The end of spending money to make your workforce work more in the office is upon us. RIP kegs, ping pong tables, smoothie machines, bean bags, unlimited snacks, nap rooms, and so much more! All of the things used to trick employees into staying longer at the office are finally being seen for what they are: useless. It’s music to my ears to hear people finally talking about what a waste these so-called “perks” actually are — after years of being told how competitive the workforce is and how alcohol and limitless snacks were the key to attracting talent. What’s now in? Human benefits that help people take care of themselves and their families. Things that allow for people to spend more time with their loved ones, have better health insurance, and gain access to continuous education. Now those are real incentives to engage, retain, and develop your people. So, companies as you return your kegs, please return those dollars to your HR department to get valuable benefits and ongoing learning for all of your employees, so they can return to their normal lives.

#9: Open floor plans

Open floor plans are one of the worst ideas ever. Who thought that throwing an entire company on one open floor would promote transparency instead of giving employees the freedom that they need to work? Or that these WeWork-type offices would make people enjoy coming to work in a crowded fish bowl (under the guise of a trendy and modern, hotel-like space), with no privacy or sanity to get anything done? Rather than eliminating or reducing employee commutes or enhancing health benefits, companies decided that tricking out the office was where valuable employee-dollars should be spent. A space that ensures people can hear every single noise (like sales pitches, gong ringing, ping pong slaps, and much more), in an open room of insanity, with funky uncomfortable couches that look cool, but kill your ass. Because really what we want is for our customers to think we work from a bar.

I remember opening offices in many cities in my time in HR. Moving away from cubicles and moving into WeWork’s, which were outrageously costly, even down to the printing fees. At the time, I knew we were spending too much money on a useless, over-designed space. And now, we as HR professionals can finally say goodbye to these toxic environments. And most importantly, the Adam Neuman’s of the world, who inflated this culture.

What we’re welcoming:

#8: Diversity and Inclusion

Yes, we are finally talking about diversity and inclusion, but is it the right conversation? Are we providing a number count on women, Latino, black, LGBTQ, and other minorities? Or are we educating people on our differences and the power of difference that impacts not only the bottom line in an impactful way, but the engagement and productivity of the workforce? In 2020, we will ensure it is the latter and keep an education force to help evolve the workforce and not force numbers where there is not a readiness-factor established to change. We need to educate people to change and not divide our diversity.

#7: Holding CEOs accountable

This is probably the first year since leaving HR that I am cheering for what we accomplished. So many assholes finally got fired. The people who didn’t care about people and just cared about deepening their pockets. The people who harassed, bullied, and discriminated — leading out of fear, rather than integrity. The people who were sleeping with their workforce and never had the public interest in mind. They’re gone! I am so happy we no longer tolerate this bad behavior. This is what the power of a good board, good CHRO, and great employees can do to ensure change happens, so workplaces are a safe and supportive environment for all. Let’s keep it going. Hold them accountable.

#6: Recognizing the power of millenials

We spent a decade scrutinizing their every word, action, blog, avocado toast order, and more. Wake up! Millennials have said what we should have said years ago: “Enough is enough. Invest in me and I will invest in you!” They have changed the workforce by empowering employees and helping us find our voices again. We are all here together and need to work together for the greater good. So, stop bashing them. They will be the majority of the workforce in 2020 and let’s be honest — you also want to be treated more humanely. This is nothing new, but their voice has helped bring about the change we have asked for for years. They are a highly effective generation and we need to embrace them during the chronic change evolution in this workforce as technology continues to advance over day-to-day work.

#5: Employees standing up to their employers

Employees, you have a big voice. A loud voice. There are more of us than there are of them. You have stood up to companies for unfair labor practices, hurting others and making a profit from it, supporting border concentration camps, harassment, and discrimination and more! Your voice has been heard loud and clear and will continue to be, as long as you speak up. You are the heartbeat of capitalism and democracy and the only safe sounding board. Hold people accountable and keep fighting to help others.

#4: Parental leave

Yes, companies — your employees have kids. It is why we exist as a species. So, while it is great that some companies have extended parental benefits this year from 4 to 6 months, I challenge you to think about a year. Your best talent is not connected to you through a laser beam of chronic working. Your best talent is with you as they fulfill their other goals in life, including raising a family. Retain your talent and give back to them as they embark on a beautiful path in life. Don’t shame them for having kids. Embrace that these kids will grow up knowing your company name in a positive light. And will want to buy from you in the future because you took care of their parents who helped you build the impossible. Treating people well will always be good for business.

#3: Women and minorities being seen! 

This has been a transformative year now that people are acknowledging women and minorities as leaders, business people, intellectuals, and humans. Yes, we have existed for a long time and now we are actually the majority. So, we’re glad that you have finally realized our true potential and ability to change the landscape of work, politics, and life for the greater good. More women have received investment money this year, are leading companies, and are echoing voices of humanity for all. Now is the time for change for our survival with the diversity of perspective that captures all that we are and all that we want to be.

#2: Data is finally a big deal in HR

Quite candidly, it always has been, but CEO’s and companies didn’t care because it meant that they couldn’t focus on numbers and now have to focus on people. Let’s be clear: you don’t have numbers without people and now companies are seeing the effect that low employee investment has on engagement, spending, productivity, and business goals. Throwing people away is not only bad for morale and your reputation — it’s bad for business. Why it took this long for people to have this “ah-ha” moment, I have no idea. I don’t buy into the “seat at the table” concept for HR. You have to hire HR. Otherwise, expect a similar, tumultuous culture to WeWork, who, by the way, just hired their first CHRO amidst the layoffs. HR is your hand as CEO. They are the pulse of the organization and have so much data on how that pulse is working. So, instead of having a culture that is toxic and inhumane, hire your hand and not only will they have a seat at the table, but a direct line to profitability in the company which is owned by people. Not some finance person making spreadsheets on sales assumptions.

#1: Lifelong learning!

Ok, so we fired a lot of bad people, realized it was stupid to hire the same role 5 times in a year, and are starting to recognize the value and potential in people. So, how do we keep going as people? By enabling them to learn. We have talked endlessly about the war on talent and the skills shortage. Sorry everyone — this was perpetuated by us out of laziness and ignorance. We foolishly thought we could just rehire and spend, spend, spend until we got the right talent. Here’s your wake up call: it is not talent until it is developed and talent needs to be developed continually to keep up with the changing landscape of the workforce with technology. So, yes, now you see that throwing out people is expensive and inhumane. So, let’s continue to invest in each other and our full potential, leaving no one behind. We need to change with the workforce, playing offense rather than defense as the future of work evolves. To be clear, in the workplace, offense wins. Playing defense is reactive and exhausting. It takes more time, effort and power. On the other hand, a good offensive strategy of people investment keeps you one step ahead — on a path that allows for you and your people to always learn and grow together.

So, happy new year and double down on the changes in 2019 in 2020. Let’s get back to us. Let’s get back to why we are Human Resources. We are the humans that provide the resources of opportunity for all.