How Thought Leaders Kill HR Credibility

HR fads have been around a long time. Snake oil vendors have peddled everything from empowerment to job loyalty, to employee engagement, and just wait for the next one … agility! These have all been breathlessly presented as must-haves for the HR department to chase around. Consider this comparison:

• Claims to cure everything
• No real cause-effect evidence of actual impact
• Repackaged to basically sell the same thing over and over
• Appeals to mystical powers
• No refunds/no guarantees

• Claims to cure everything
• No real cause-effect evidence of actual impact
• Repackaged to basically sell the same thing over and over (engagement, empowerment, loyalty, agility)
• Appeals to mystical powers: One firm actually calls it MAGIC Engagement!!
• Have you ever received a refund if your survey didn’t drive business outcomes?

The problem comes down to self-described “thought leaders” who come up with a new (repackaged) concept that sounds good from a marketing perspective, they write a book about it, market the heck out of it, and make numerous assumptions and claims based on ZERO research or analytics. Patient-zero is “First, Break All the Rules” which introduced the world to “I have a best friend at work.” Do you realize how much that one item has hurt HR’s credibility? Have you ever implemented a “find a best friend at work” program? Moreover, do you realize the paradox of Gallup telling us every year that employee engagement is flat among their clients but yet they also claim to know exactly what drives employee engagement?

These thought leaders don’t actually work in organizations that face serious business issues every day and after they introduce these new topics—no one ever bothers to ask them “did you actually test this out to see if it drives real business results?” The truth is, every book that comes out with a new fad or term will end up being a step backward for HR’s credibility unless there is real proof that it actually works. Do these thought leaders/vendors ever put their money where their mouth is and offer to refund their gigantic fees if their pet theory doesn’t work? Never!

If thought leaders were medical doctors, their approach to diagnosis would be “well the last two people who came in with abdominal pain needed their appendix out, so that must be your problem/solution too.” Wrong! The solution to this is to ignore the thought leaders and diagnose your own business problems with your own people data. Run tests on your organizations’ data, don’t rely on an assumption that what is happening in other companies will apply in yours. Implementing the next fad is expensive, and if it isn’t the right fit for your organization, is the thought leader going to come fix it for you and refund the money? Don’t hold your breath. So, stop reading the latest article that “Facebook installed free candy machines so you should too” and start implementing fact-based HR initiatives that will work in your culture and impact your business metrics. SMD has even implemented a guarantee for its services with its new results-based pricing model. Ask us how we can deliver guaranteed results to you.

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