Beyond the HR hologram


A hologram is something you can see but you cannot touch, it doesn’t occupy any space and, therefore, it is an integral part of the environment without being an obstacle for anyone needing to move around this very same space. In a company which aims to promote frictionless work processes, it is all too easy to see the HR department as an insupportable support function, a group of activities that get in the way rather than directly assist the company in its primary objectives. As a result of this, it is not surprising that HR pioneers are developing alternatives which mean HR is very much “in the air rather than the chair”. Not surprisingly though, such alternatives find resistance from within HR itself, especially those rather attached to their particular chair, and this resistance & self-insecurity can lead to what I term  “counterproductive visibility” (“in the air and the chair”.). Indeed, I want to argue that the hologram approach, visible but not present, is really just a stepping stone to a more radical vision of HR, a vision where HR completely disappears as we know it to be reborn as a source of emotional guidance and inspiration at the heart of a company, capable of driving the company towards ever more ambitious goals.


It has been a long hard struggle for HR to assert itself as a “department” within a large organization. However, the recurring perilous position of HR when companies need to make cutbacks shows that HR is indeed fighting a losing battle. There is no point scrapping over space within the company as HR has never really had any space to occupy. Bluntly put, the HR function emerged out of the failures of day to day management. And rather than correct these failures it has tended to repeat them. Indeed, one might conclude that that the bigger the HR department is, the bigger the problem is. The relative size of the HR department has generally become a good indicator for calibrating the level of organizational dysfunction.



This might explain, therefore, why many innovators are trying to turn HR into a clear Value Proposition rather than a particular person or position. As a value Proposition, the HR function can be embedded into day to day management and HR can fill a need rather than a space. But HR, as we know it today, is still a necessary evil. It must act as the scaffolding for the construction of the key pillars of the organization such as Culture, processes, lean design, emotional architecture, ways of acting and behaving, etc. However, just as it is essential in helping construct these pillars, it must also know, how and when to remove this scaffolding once it is no longer needed.

For building any successful company you will need some key people management competencies and tools, but not necessarily HR people. In fact, many successful companies are running without any HR department. Therefore HR people are just one other way of providing and deploying these needed capabilities. The end result is what is important and not how one arrives at it. Unfortunately, there is often a fixation on improving the method / structure at the expense of achieving exactly what the company was created for.

So the question would be how to incorporate these insights in current business dynamics. The pathway ahead I would suggest has four different milestones:

o   Step 1: Moving the HR department as something physically divisible as we have today into a visible business partner offering added value. Put a big piece of your efforts to make the intangible tangible. In the past HR tended to hide itself behind intangibles (e.g. training, employee development, etc.) where the reality was that HR needed to be more forward thinking in showing the HR contribution to the bottom line. I mean that there is a lot of real contribution which still remains hidden because of the lack of capability and creativity to translate HR interventions into currency, the core language of the business. Unless we make this transition HR will always be seen as a cost rather than a key long term investment.

o   Step 2: Moving from visible partner with a clear value proposition to creating a mindset at the core of our organization where managers begin to behave as the real HR leaders. At this step all activities are already embedded into the day to day business. Traditional HR starts to melt away at this point. From support hero to invisible friend. Now it’s time to start to remove the scaffolding. Begin to withdraw and allow managers to oversee the embedded functions. Moving from something indivisible to the invisible. Becoming a mirage. Building a real perceivable hologram that managers can always call on until they are completely ready.

o   Step 3: HR can now disappear appearing somewhere else: beyond the hologram

What do we have beyond the hologram?

HR is evolving but not radically enough. Once HR ensures the above mentioned steps, now is the time to move forward. More than ever. And my proposal is to leave the current HR land to already empowered managers and develop a new more promising future which concentrates on our core contribution – the human factor – helping create organizations where people thrive and profits grow accordingly.

In such a vision HR is no longer concerned with either occupying or vacating space, but with the construction of the space itself and the very purpose of being there. HR becomes a key player in defining the overall narrative of the story in which the different characters will write their own particular parts. Let’s be storytellers.

As no chair needed any more, now it’s the time to blend into the business, capturing real conversations while living the same experiences at the same time. Capture the real conversations which represent the acoustics of the organization. Live in the field, not in the office. And talking about conversations, we need to move from screen to screen to skin to skin.

Mixing big data with first hand insight from the employees, from the customers, from providers and from all stakeholders that can change your reality. Analyze the data, understand the people to anticipate and enhance the decision making process.

Let’s put our efforts into facilitating the engagement – re engagement and disengagement alongside the organizational design process and driving the change to move the company forward, ahead of market needs.

Differentiation in current times doesn’t come only from brain. It comes through the heart, therefore, I won’t be enough to design a sexy experience for the brain but also it will be needed to design something inspiring for the heart if you want to have something radically different to be different. It is said that if you want to succeed, you should be either the first, or the best or the unique. Let’s try to one of them by understanding the power of emotions, the power of understanding this model, the power of inspiring souls and let them bring you to the highest goals.

Diversity as the best mix of talented people with different mindsets to achieve different outcomes. Talented people that want to stay because they remain inspired. One of the biggest challenges in our current times is to inspire talent to make them want to work & play together. And the new HR beyond the hologram is all of this.

As you can see, my proposal is to send traditional “HR functions & task” back to where they belong: the line managers with the new appropriate HR mindset. And just after the need is to capitalize the above mentioned set of interventions that will help the company to truly differentiate itself from its competitors. It is no accident that the employees of successful companies like Google are happy to describe themselves as googlers. Because they don’t just need a group of people. They need a group of “sherpas” to reach the top. My proposal is to move HR from doing things right to doing the right things.



And the Bottom Line. Always the Bottom Line. No Bottom Line, no people. Let’s look for sustainability of growth. 
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