When Harry (and Meghan) Meet HR
I’m not a big follower of the royal family. I was not one of the estimated 17 million people who watched Oprah’s interview with Meghan and Harry. However, the next day an aspect of the interview caught my attention when I read what late night comedian Jimmy Kimmel said, "Meghan said at one point things got so bad she went to HR at Buckingham Palace for help, and they refused to help. It's funny that the royal palace has HR and that it's just as unhelpful as HR every place else."
“Meghan said at one point things got so bad she went to HR at Buckingham Palace for help, and they refused to help. It’s funny that the royal palace has HR and that it’s just as unhelpful as HR every place else.” --Jimmy Kimmel
In January, I “attended” a virtual event where HR and leadership analyst Josh Bersin described “The Great Reset.” He made the case that the pandemic had not only elevated the HR function within organizations by showcasing how it is able to be a strategic center for innovation, but that many organizations were also making a major shift from being business-centered to being human-centered.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak with Oprah Winfrey.
Harpo Productions/Photographer: Joe Pugliese (Photo Credit: Global News)
I like to listen to Josh because he sees the big picture and also seems to have a crystal ball that allows him to project forward yesterday’s and today’s trends into what we will see tomorrow. In that regard, Josh traced management philosophy evolving from the industrial corporation (emphasizing efficiency) to hierarchical leadership (driven by profit and growth) to collaborative management (focused on customer service) to the company as a network (pursuing its mission and purpose) to where we are today slowly emerging from the pandemic. Bersin says that empathy, trust, resilience, and change are the managerial philosophies that will dominate in today’s successful organizations. Under this philosophy, productivity, responsibility, and wellness will be primary.
A human-centered approach means individuals are first and business is second. Instead of leading the business and having the people come along for the ride, it is about leading the people and allowing them to drive the business forward.
A human-centered approach means individuals are first and business is second. Instead of leading the business and having the people come along for the ride, it is about leading the people and allowing them to drive the business forward. Josh’s view of HR and how he sees organizations progressing, however, is at odds with how too many HR functions are performing. They are not fully realizing HR’s new status and this new vision of managerial philosophy. While HR certainly stepped up during the pandemic, we are still the punch line in a joke.
Apparently HR told the royal couple that they could not help them because they were not paid employees. If Harry and Meghan can’t get HR to act, what about everybody else? In a December 2017 online survey representative of the US adult population conducted by LegalZoom , only “26% of respondents have total faith in their company to take swift action when it comes to workplace issues.”
Organizational leaders expect HR professionals to protect the organization from liability. However, that responsibility often comes at the expense of individual employees.
It is shortsighted when HR leans too much toward defending the organization. If HR is being assigned the responsibility to protect the organization and its culture, HR must also be given the autonomy and authority that is needed in order to carry out that responsibility. Confronting the issues of a toxic culture IS protecting the organization. There may be some short-term pain, but in the long run the organization will become the human-centered entity envisioned by Bersin.
Gerry Brandon, PhD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the Director of the Graduate Programs in Human Resource Development at Villanova and an Associate Professor. Connect with him on LinkedIn and learn more about him here!