Friday, 10 October 2014

#HRTechConf #2014NLS The Modern CHRO and the Neuroscience of HR Technology

In fact I've been following the tweets from the NeuroLeadership Summit (NLS) in San Francisco as well as HR Technology conference (HRTech) in Las Vegas.  Not an easy thing to do! - NLS has been replaying the points raised last year about the importance of attention and the negative impacts of tweeting plus the need to pause every 15 minutes to give the brain to take hold of new learnings - well following, tweeting and blogging on two conferences after a hard day's work in the UK has certainly had my hippocampus working hard.

It's been particularly difficult because I've been struggling with both agendas.  I don't agree with the prevailing mindset on analytics at HRTech which has made it difficult to learn.  And I'm no expert on neuroscience (yet) so I feel NLS has given me a lot to take on.  In fact I was listening to one of my most fascinating sessions I've ever attended to at any conference quite late last night and which focused on the neuroscience of values but I still fell asleep half way.  No problems though - we know how important sleep is to health, learning and performance.

One of the reasons I found the session on values so interesting was because it focused on the extension of ideas within the brain to the level of the organisation.  Eg we can understand what we value by looking within the brain but doing this can also help the way groups of people in an organisation change what they value too.

I saw this link between quite a few of the things we discussed at both of the conferences.  For example today at NLS we've been focusing on Carol Dweck's ideas about fixed and growth mindsets.  I've got no data for this but intuitively I link this to what I've been seeing as a split in the HR agenda at HRTech between a focus on business and one on people.

The people / growth agenda certainly came up a couple of time at HR Tech with questions about whether analytics reduce HR's humanity and whether there's enough Human in Human Resources.  But most of the agenda was about how we fit in more closely with existing ways of doing things within a business.

For example:
Don't have a seat at the table? Ask if there's something you're not doing right. HR priorities MUST be business priorities.

To become CHRO, must know your HR stuff AND your business. You are a business person, not a support person.

I linked all of this to the fixed mindset because it treats people as essentially static resources which can be moved around to meet business needs - sometimes almost literally ie John Boudreau talked about analytics making talent more like a game of chess.

I saw the same issue come through in a number of different guises.  One was a few comments about the role of women.  Denis Howlett suggests the high proportion of women in HR is one of the reasons why he thinks it's not performing:
If you trawl through the HR hierarchy you quickly find that it is dominated in number by women. As an objective fact, women are massively under represented in positions of power. In technology businesses, there are a pitifully low number of female CEOs and women are leaving the business in mumbers. Fortune reports there are only 24 women CEO’s among the Fortune 500. Given that skewing of the data, is it any surprise HR is often the poor relation in the C-suite?

I think that comes from a fixed mindset.  A growth mindset celebrates the fact that the female balance within HR means that we're more likely to perform now and that we already resemble the type or organisation that most businesses, or at least their leadership teams, will become (see this article in today's HR Magazine.)

There were other overlaps as well.  These relate in particular to values and culture which I started to refer to earlier, and also performance management.  But I'm going to come back and address these two topics separately next week.