HR is frequently viewed as a function that is needed but in very few occasions are we considered as really adding value to the organization. By looking at the organization from the perspective of nature, can we become a motor for change to help it prepare for the future? Can we use this to demonstrate the value we bring?
It is unfortunately true that HR is viewed as a necessary evil in many organizations. It is also true that many times, as HR professionals, we fail in being able to articulate how we can deliver value and impact the bottom line. We are viewed, and in many cases we consider ourselves, as a function that is there to make sure there is adherence to laws and regulations and to hire or fire people when needed. We are frequently considered overhead or even a burden.
One way we can change this perception is by driving change and helping the organization prepare for future challenges. We need to understand first what changes the organization will face and the only way to do this is by knowing the business intimately and understanding the strategic direction the organization is seeking. But this is not enough.
“provide insight into how best to future-proof business for the unpredictability ahead”.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could use this understanding of nature and apply it to the organizations we work in and show how we can add value by developing our HR programs and strategies in accordance to these principles?
What Hutchins proposes is for us to look at the organization based on the Principles of Nature he quotes from Fritjof Capra‘s book “The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living“. These principles are:
- Solar Energy
- Dynamic Balance
Lets look at each one of these principles from the perspective of understanding an organization. We know there are networks of relationships and many times we refer to them as the formal and informal relationships that occur within the organization. But what about really understanding where the “boundaries of identity and interaction” are? A thorough understanding of these networks will enable us to develop more effective ways to communicate within the organization as well as determining where there are barriers to collaboration.
Cycles are also present within organizations. If we take the time to look at the past and correlate the ups and downs, the expansions and contractions, with the impact on employee morale, retention or loss of talent, etc. we can anticipate what the impact can be if we know we are headed in a certain direction. We can learn from the way the organization moves through these cycles and then decide how we can support it to avoid past pitfalls.
Solar energy is a little more tricky, although if we draw a parallel between how it is the fuel that allows life of all living organisms, we can say that employee engagement is the fuel that enables companies to succeed. It is proven that increased levels of engagement have a considerable impact on the bottom line and we need to make sure we focus on this if we want to add value.
Partnership is the principle of cooperation. Is this a way of life within our organization or do we work in silos, worried about the results of our individual objectives? Are the programs and systems we have in place for measuring performance, establishing goals, etc. fostering collaboration and cooperation? We need to understand the impact of the programs we put in place so that we can re-design them to enable an environment that is conducive to cooperation.
Nature clearly shows us that the greater the biodiversity the more resilient the ecosystems are. The same is true within organizations. When we talk about diversity we sometimes fail to grasp the true meaning. We need to foster an organization that is diverse, not only in race or origin, but diversity of thought. Do we let managers hire people that are like them, because they are easier to understand, or do we promote positive change by creating an environment where different is great?
Finally we have dynamic balance. Nature shows us that “no single variable is maximized, all variables fluctuate in concert around a collective optimum”. Do we really take the time to understand each piece of the network, each part of the organization? Do we take them all into account when we are thinking of our HR strategy? We normally focus only on the things that are deemed the most important (our high potential employees, our executives and leaders) and we forget that, if we truly want to drive results we need to maintain the dynamic balance that allows everyone to flourish.
So we need to devote time to understand our organization and what the reality is based on the principles of nature. That will enable us to drive positive change as it will provide an intimate knowledge of the key areas we need to focus on. By driving change from the perspective of the organization as a living organism we will prepare it for the future that lies ahead and the value HR brings will be clear.by