HR likened to ‘boiling frogs’, says management professor

Despite constant technological change, one management professor says HR remains blissfully unaware of the dangers these developments pose.

HR likened to ‘boiling frogs’, says management professor
“As we develop digital solutions and innovative ways of meeting customer needs, we can do it with fewer and fewer people. That’s a problem. That’s a major crisis … for HR.”
Paddy Miller, professor of managing people in organisations at IESE Business School, sat down with HRM to discuss why HR should be more heavily involved in tackling digital disruption.
“It’s like the boiling frog syndrome. You know, HR hasn’t noticed that the water’s boiling yet. But it is, so how do you get out of that?”
The premise behind this statement is that a frog in cold water which is gradually heated will not notice the change in temperature until it is boiled alive.
The main issue in business stems from the fact that many traditional HR functions, which previously required a lot of people, could now be done with very few, Miller said.
“HR really has to focus on bringing value to the business. The problem for the HR people is how to do that? How do you as an HR person bring that value to the organisation?”
The answer to this is simple, Miller said; HR has to join the conversation about digitalising the business – a role it has been conspicuously absent from up until now.
“When you talk about digital disruption, HR is not in the conversation. If you look at the main players – the CEO of the business, the chief marketing officer, the chief information officer – you never see the HR manager on that list. So the question you’ve got to ask is why is HR not involved in this discussion?”
To start talking about this kind of digital transformation, Miller suggests HR tackle two key areas:
  • Producing digital leadership by recruiting, training and developing people to drive the digital strategies within the organisation
  • Creating digital disciples in the rest of the workforce ensuring everyone has their hearts and minds behind the transformation
“I think you need to reinvent yourself a little bit as an HR person. I think you have to go back to the drawing board and say there are a lot of loose concepts here – we lack process, we lack training to get people on board. HR should be providing all of that and they’re not at the moment,” said Miller.

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