The HR Game Changer Blog

Panic in the Boardroom: Why transformation freaks out your exec team & how to get around this

For those of us in the HR Game Changer community, we know that the things we’re talking about can freak out an executive management team.

Getting rid of annual performance reviews?

Abolishing managers and hierarchy?

Allowing people to work where and when they want & focus on results, not inputs?

Having people wearing casual dress in the office every day?

Having values with a swear word in them???

If you start talking about these things, there will be panic in the boardroom.

I think this happens for a number of reasons:

  1. Most of our exec teams have worked their way up through a hierarchical structure, where command and control was expected & required from leaders. To be suddenly told that the whole model has changed and they now need to be collaborative would be like telling someone who drives that they can stop obeying the road rules. Most of us would instantly see all the issues with this, and not be able to do it.
  2. Our executive teams are mostly baby boomers. They got to where they are with hard work, building experience and doing the miles. To now suggest that the skills and experience that got them there aren’t valued anymore, and the processes that they have been part of building need to be thrown out, unsurprisingly could you make you feel like you’re being told everything you’ve done was worthless.
  3. Executive teams have gone through enormous change in their working lives. From starting out in a workplace where there was a typing pool of women who would never be anything more, to seeing computers coming into the workplace, mobile phones, the internet, email and women moving into senior roles – I think many of them have had enough. To now suggest that they need to start tweeting, and spend time on LinkedIn, blog and yammer with their teams is just a bridge too far. They entrench and turn off.

Now I’m not saying this is every executive team but many of you have contacted me and said you would like to transform your HR processes – but your exec and management teams are very traditional and aren’t interested in you going to some new-fangled game changer conference to discuss how you’ll do this.

So how can you get your exec or management team intrigued in a safe way and avoid the panic?

Here are some of my ideas:

  • Do a review with the executive team of one of your HR processes (for example, your annual performance review process). Ask them what’s working about it, what’s not and what results they would want to create from this as leaders? You could bring along your engagement results, feedback from employees about what they like and dislike about the system, feedback from managers on the same. Asking if the benefits of ranking people into a curve outweighs negatives. Getting them to realise that the process has flaws and coming up with changes. The teams I’m talking to who are throwing out reviews, have had the suggestion from the executive team – rather than HR being the ones driving it. The other benefit of this idea is that it gives you time with your executive team on an HR issue they can get their teeth into, creates ownership of the process rather than HR owning it, and also gives you insight into what the exec team really think of the process.
  • Run a pilot. If you know there is a process that isn’t working and you’d like to try an experiment, find the one manager in your business who is more innovative and would like to try something (hopefully you’ve got one of those somewhere!!). Then you can try out an idea on a small scale, report the results and then present this as an opportunity for other areas of the business. Don’t force it on everyone which is what we usually do when we change a process in HR. Also design the new process from the end users perspective (we cover off how to do this using Design Thinking at the HRGC this year). All of this is SHOW rather than TELL, a concept from the writing and marketing world which again in HR we ignore.
  • Find an ally. That same innovative manager – if they have influence or a good relationship with other managers, get them talking to them about some of the ideas you’d like to plant a seed on.
  • Exec team library/articles. Do you circulate books or articles that you think your executive team should read? Do you have an HR newsletter just for your exec team or management team that provides them with an update on what’s happening in the company as well as some food for thought on their own professional development? Are there any blogs or articles from some of the HRGC presenters that you could share, then a week later, suggest that you’d like to attend a conference to hear that person speak? And that they could come along too?
  • Networking discussions. What about bringing in a CEO or senior manager from a more innovative company and having an internal seminar/networking session for your senior management team? Or talking to other HR people in similar businesses and creating a special interest group of managers who are facing similar challenges. I know there are a number of HR groups out there from particular industries, who get together to talk about the specific challenges that they are facing. Why are we not doing this for our managers? Some of you also presented the information from the HR Game Changer back to your exec teams so they could see where the extremes were out there, but to challenge them to think if anything needed changing or reviewing.

The HR Game Changer isn’t about turning off your exec teams or managers to transforming HR – but to get them interested in how reinventing your processes could actually make their lives easier, could achieve more, could make your business a better place to work, increase productivity and people’s happiness and engagement and make them the inspirational leaders that others may look to.

It will be a leap too far for many – but think of a baby step you could take them on.

If you’d really like to be at the HR Game Changer conference but are trapped in a traditional workplace that doesn’t want to hear about it, get in touch with me on and we can see if there is any way we get you there, or put you in touch with others in the HRGC community.

We don’t want panic in the boardroom, but if we’re going to change the game on how our executive teams and managers think about HR – perhaps we are going to have to cause a little bit of disruption!

If you’ve got any other ideas on getting your exec team on board with transformational HR, please feel free to share them here.

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This entry was posted on July 23, 2015 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .

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