Transformational HR

Perry Timms is the Founder and Chief Energy Officer of PTHR, TEDx Speaker and Adviser on the Future of Work. Perry joined HRD Connect to discuss the topic of his first book, Transformational HR which was published in October.

What are the key challenges facing HR teams?

I spent three and a half months earlier this year writing a book called Transformational HR. I felt incredibly fortunate to be writing about the topic at a time when there are some huge challenges but also huge opportunities facing HR as a discipline.

There are some key challenges: technology, changing expectations of what people want from their work, stagnant wages, challenges in the social and political arena – not to mention a lot of uncertainty.

HR is a very different landscape compared to 10 years ago. And as a discipline, HR doesn’t have a good track record in being innovative and getting ahead of the curve by being responsive and adaptable. There’s a playbook, and that’s pretty much been the situation for about the last 20 years.

What are the drivers behind the need to transform?

The strongest driver is the internal demand from companies who are waking up and saying, ‘We’ve got good systems and technology but we’re still not capturing the market share we want, or we’re not as innovative as we want.’

And I think that is down to the fact that they haven’t quite unleashed their people. Increasingly there is a realisation that people are the differentiating factor. And I wanted to move the conversation beyond the ‘greatest asset’ cliché, and more towards the idea that people are the organization. Therefore it becomes about including them, and changing the dynamic of how they operate, and giving them a stronger sense to their belonging to something, making them bigger than just creating shareholder value.

Where should HR be looking for inspiration?

The innovative energy in business at the moment is coming from technology giants like Amazons, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple. How have they done that? Well they’ve done that because they’ve adopted a very agile and responsive method of deployment and delivery and innovation and customer-centricity.

I believe HR needs to learn from the IT world now, because I can remember IT 2 years ago which was a poor shadow of what it is now. HR leaders should be thinking, ‘let’s adopt the best bits of what technology’s done to drive it success measured through deploying brilliant people, having great systems around them, as well as a user customer orientation.

What should success look like? 

Success looks like organisations that people will look at and think, ‘Wow they’re doing good for people, the world, their communities, and they’re not just making profit’. And I think HR could be a conscious advocate for that, and a conscience to get people to think a little bit more widely. That’s the call I’ve made in the books. Transformational HR isn’t just a new model, it’s about adopting new techniques but starting from quite a lofty aspiration: to be a conscience within the world at work.

I’m saying actually there’s a heart and mind agenda here, and if you haven’t got the minds in gear, the hearts won’t follow. The hearts can drive a lot of the mind and so there is a ‘think and do’ philosophy in the book which looks at HR people individually as practitioners and then collectively as a function, and then systemically as an overall profession.

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