Over the last few decades, HR has been afflicted by bad press. Labelled with questionable misnomers like “human remains,” it’s suffered from employees and board members’ lack of faith in its:
- Business acumen
- Financial capability
- Global perspective
- Customer focus
In short, it’s not been perceived as adding value to an organisation, but rather as a cost. Sweeping changes to the world of work in the near future will mean this perception needs to be changed, but how can it be?
“You don’t have to be an Ad to work here, but it helps” — how Strategic HR will be the new Don Drapers
As HR moves from the operational to the strategic there are going to be changes.
HR is now responsible not only for the operational needs of payroll, reward and recruitment, but also for growing the greater brand culture.
Culture is of course all-important from a compliance perspective. From Travis Kalanick at Uber to Trafigura dumping toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, movements fail not because the controls were too lax but because the value culture was absent amongst the worker population. Likewise, I would say that for compliance breaches, reporting and process failures are not entirely due to ignorance, but because employees don’t feel responsible. You can’t police every infraction. You’re going to need strategic methods of improving compliance.
Modern slavery is still a huge ongoing global issue, with 20 to 30 million people still estimated to be enslaved in 161 countries worldwide, and 20 new suspected victims found in the UK just this morning.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires all businesses with a turnover of over £36 million to publish a statement setting out the steps they have taken, during each financial year, to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place anywhere in their supply chains and in any part of their own business.
It’s a small step towards greater regulatory control and awareness of modern slavery. However, the current issue with modern slavery reporting is twofold. Firstly, added documentation is often used as a salve for insufficient understanding resulting in additional paperwork being created, but little impact on-the-ground. Secondly, accountability tends to be pushed down the supply chain, with confirmation of good practice being asked of the next in the chain until we reach those with no interest in acting honestly, or who simply don’t care.
Learning could address both these issues of understanding and passing the blame, but it isn’t being used to do so. Here’s how it can, and why it should.
As a teenager I applied for a job as a cashier at a major high-street pharmacy. The first round of assessment, with compliance in mind, was an online quiz on good practices and ethics. We had thirty statements and had to give a true or false answer to each. One of the statements was:
True or false: “It is always wrong to steal.”
Quite a stupid question to offer a generation that grew up on Aladdin!
And so, within minutes of interacting with an employer I was being trained to lie to them. Rather ironic for a test designed to ensure quality of character. In comparison, I applied for a similar position at a popular British department store. They had an excellent test that put you on the shop floor with day-in-the-life challenges. I tried to follow the same line and rightly failed. Their ethics test was good, it filtered for dishonesty and heartlessness.
And yet, even as good Instructional Designers, we all too easily fall into the trap of writing compliance interactions like this:
I have a friend called Ed. He is smart, alert and doesn’t try too hard to be funny. Separate to this, he is a Reinsurance Analyst. No-one knows what a Reinsurance Analyst is, few care to find out. This creates a quandary because he likes his job, it’s interesting and he wants to talk about it. But it’s hard, because there are few ways to sell Reinsurance analysis without trying too hard to be funny. Few listen.