In this article we introduce a new way of thinking, a new way of working, a new Tribe HR.

I have a dream…

That one day I will be able to introduce myself at a dinner party and tell people ‘I work in HR’, and not be met with either eye rolls or comments like- “HR in every company I have ever worked in was utter crap… oh, but I am sure you are different!” 

I have a dream…

That the HR profession becomes consistently known for innovation, great practice and people design, not process, policing compliance and bureaucracy.

I have a dream….

That in just one movie, TV show or even anecdote, that the role of the token ‘HR person’ is played by a cool, or even normal person, that people actually like, as opposed to the uptight, unpopular and out of touch HR model we usually see.

Admittedly, not as grand as Martin Luther King Jnr’s dream, but a girl has to start somewhere.

So how did this stereotype of bad and outdated HR become so common? Having worked in HR for over 11 years now (which may be considered a lifetime to some and a ‘mere blink ‘for others), here is my view.

HR like all functions in business has evolved over time. Starting from a basis of administration; moving into a focus on process and compliance; now sitting in a space of strategy, design and commerciality; and ever expanding into innovation, deep empathy and the shaping of not just future businesses, but future communities and society.

I like to call this latter stage of evolution ‘New Tribe HR’, and I am a proud card-carrying member of this group.

This evolutionary path has not been smooth for our profession, and unfortunately a big chunk of the HR cohort still seems stuck in process and policing mode, administration or irrelevant rallying for ‘a seat at the table’ (yawn).

What we really need to connect on now, to move us all forward, is a commitment to doing the stuff that really makes the people side of business not only hum, but be a real source of competitive advantage.

Before you hang me, this is not an ‘old vs young’ debate.

In fact there is a significant group of very experienced HR Leaders driving our profession forward into new territories. Conversely there are a lot of ‘new school’ HR folks who seem to be most happy when creating reams of forms and compliance checklists to weigh businesses down with. It’s also not based on the company you work for (those who are up for ‘cutting edge people practice’ and those who are not) or your level in the ‘hierarchy’.

No. New Tribe HR is about a mindset.

A mindset that recognises that businesses and communities are just a group of people working together (to steal words from Rhonda-Brighton-Hall), and that great people practices can help you do this in ways that are better for everyone (not just the shareholder, but also individual employees, loving what they do, feeling valued and then taking this positivity into the rest of their lives).  It’s about a belief that what our profession stands for matters, makes a positive impact, and is part of building a better world.

New Tribe HR is also about skills.

It’s about truly understanding people and business and what it takes to get them moving together. It’s about real fine-tuned commercial skills. It’s about understanding the big picture and how the pieces should come together.

It’s about unbelievably great relationship skills. This is a biggie. It’s about really in your heart-of-hearts caring about people, having deep empathy, super high EQ and being brilliant at communicating, influencing and building trust in an authentic way.

A strong HR and IR academic and legal baseline, while still important, is a given and not enough on their own.

New Tribe HR need to be able to deliver real value, in a seamless way to both Leaders and Employees.

This needs to be done in a way that draws people in the business to HR. That makes us the ‘must have’ partner or wing-wo/man you need in your corner.

New Tribe HR is cool. It’s valuable. It’s Zooey Deschanel, keeping it real as the smart, savvy and human HR person in a movie, not rigid, ‘perfect’, compliant Gwyneth Paltrow.

It is easy to paint a picture of New Tribe HR and how great it could and will be for everyone.

It’s harder to make this way of approaching people, the ‘new normal’. But it can be done. It will take effort, relentless energy, momentum and mass support until eventually the tipping point is reached and we will sit back and laugh at how ‘silly things were back in the day’, and how none of us can imagine HR being anything other than ‘New Tribe’.

How do we do this?

Well this my friends is a whole other blog post (read – I don’t have a full answer yet), but in short, my belief is that it will be combination of every single one of us coming together to do things differently. Approaching work and people from a broader and different mindset.  Building the skills needed to be a real ‘value adders’ for business. And importantly, being able to sell to those few non-believers, why this is the ONLY option for now and the future.

And even though I don’t have the perfect road map prepared, I am confident that the inevitable pain and hard work it will take will be worth it. Better business. Better experiences for individuals. Better communities. And for us in HR, much less awkward dinner party introductions.