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It’s time to deliver HR in a different way

Published on Thursday, 15th February 2018

The second in our new series of Vision events welcomed Former HR Director at the BBC and now author of the bestseller “HR Disrupted”, Lucy Adams.

Lucy now runs her own HR consultancy, Disruptive HR, which aims to break the mould of outdated HR practices and pioneer a new and improved way to work.

Why HR needs a fundamental change

Speaking to a packed room in Bristol’s quirky Ovo Energy building, Lucy quickly put the audience at ease, introducing herself as a ‘recovering HR director’.

“I’ve been there and I’ve experienced your pain… and your joys,” she said. “But I’d had enough and was so bored with my profession. I realised that HR needed a fundamental change – not just a bit of tinkering around the edges.”

But it wasn’t all negative – Lucy explained that she now feels more excited by her profession than she has done for years. “I feel so energised by the innovation and practices that are going on in HR and the fresh ideas that are coming through.”

Packed with useful stories and anecdotes, Lucy drew upon her vast experience in previous roles, with many examples coming from her time at the BBC. It was interesting to hear how much change the organisation had been through during her time there, and the many challenges this threw up in terms of HR.

The EACH Model

Lucy’s ‘EACH’ approach simply advocates that we treat employees as adults, consumers and humans. Here is a short breakdown of her thinking:

Adult: So much of HR revolves around rules and policies to make sure no one steps out of line. “It’s like those signs that say ‘now wash your hands’ in public toilets,” Lucy explained. “It gives out the message that we don’t trust you to do the right thing.”

Top takeaway: Instead, allow people to make their own adult judgement and own their own careers. Lucy cited Netflix’s expenses policy, which simply states: ‘do the right thing by Netflix’ – as a great example of treating employees like adults.

Consumer: How can HR learn from brands and consumer organisations? “I get very disheartened when people proudly tell me they’re using one approach to HR when the rest of the world is personalising,” said Lucy. She believes that we need to think less about one-size-fits-all and more about the individual needs and wants – in the same way that the likes of Amazon do it.

Top takeaway: Think like a marketeer - in a BTC business, consumer personas are used to building a picture of their typical customers to make sure they have the products to fit their needs. Lucy urged us to think in the same way with employees.

Human: So much of what we do in HR does not think about the human, like the processes that are designed to be scalable and monitorable. “Instead, we need to recognise that we are dealing with messy, frustrating, wonderful, incredible human beings. And yet what we try to provide is a nice streamlined process to make them do stuff.”

Top takeaway: If we want to get people inspired, we need to appeal to their imagination – the right-hand side of the brain – with a narrative or a story rather than a process, performance review or bonus scheme.

Find out more about Lucy’s approach on the Disruptive HR website and in her book HR Disrupted: It's time for something different.

Feedback from the event

“It’s been great to look at HR from a more positive point of view and get a refreshing, different approach. Lucy’s given me some really great examples of companies and how they’ve changed their practices for the better to have more of a human element so that people can enjoy their working life more.” Sarah Williams, Mango HR

“HR is so process-driven and often it’s all about box-ticking. It was great to hear such an honest conversation about treating people as grown-ups and humans, and questioning what their hopes and fears are, rather than trying to put them in little boxes and put scores against them.” David Thompson, 33

“There was a lot of food for thought, she was a very good speaker and very engaging. I’ll be taking a lot away – particularly the bit around performance reviews, which everybody hates!” Kerry, Thrings

Bristol Media is running a different Vision event every month, inviting guest speakers on a range of topics. Make sure you visit to find out more about our next events.