HR’s Karma: Legacy HR Must Pass

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“Karma means your life is your making. Karmic accumulation can either be a Boost or Burden – that is your choice.” — Sadhguru

I just finished the article “What Will HR Look Like in 2030?” I’m strategic. I want to know that I am three moves ahead. So, I read up to see where I stood according to industry experts. What I read instead gave me pause.

Overall, HR is not situating their organizations for future needs, and therefore, success. At least that’s the message I got from reading the article. It made me wonder if I am in the right profession. I am in human resources for people. I want people to succeed, to grow, and to become something more. According to the article, the professional I associate with is none of those things.

When it comes to technology and working with employees, “HR leaders are stuck in yesterday’s world,” said Suneet Dua, products and technology chief revenue and growth officer at PwC.

Regarding the employee experience, Keahn Gary, a senior manager and innovation and disruption strategist at Cognizant, a global IT services and consulting firm in Los Angeles, says this isn’t a job for HR. Why is that? She states that “HR, in its current state, is there to protect the company. Their purview is more along the lines of ‘How do we get employment to happen?’ rather than ‘How do we get work to happen?’ ”

To be fair, HR had over 100 years to focus on the employee experience in some form or another and neglected to do so. Gary continued by saying organizations are “way too focused on shareholder return. We have to stop looking at employees as cost centers and look at them as an investment.”

The story continues. Florian Pollner, a partner with McKinsey & Co. who is based in Zurich, believes that HR is adverse to data. “HR needs to make a mindset shift from ‘data automation is evil.’ If you don’t see data as our best friend … you’re not doing your job.”

Ultimately, what is going on here? HR shouldn’t be thought of as a monolithic body. It is a profession that takes on diverse roles across diverse organizations across a diverse world. However, there is a central theme all HR professionals need to spend time studying.

I’ve shared at least a dozen times the importance of the book Redefining HR: Transforming People Teams to Drive Business Performance by Lars Schmidt.

This book is a game changer. It NEEDS to be on the mantel of EVERY HR practitioner. It’s that important and groundbreaking, in my opinion. Schmidt’s main theme is that HR is changing (or needs to change), and HR professionals must take ownership in this change – be active in it, not simply be passengers in the revolution.

Schmidt’s emphasis is on changing “legacy HR” to “modern HR.” For any HR system to thrive, he argues, it needs to shift and embrace Modern HR, as outlined below:

Legacy HR: 

  • Elaborate programs with them as gatekeeper of corporate decisions 
  • Needlessly complex processes, forms, policies 
  • Go to HR when you’re in trouble 
  • “That’s the policy.”  
  • “You need to file this form before we can process.” 

Modern HR: 

  • Refocus on the “people” 
  • Common sense programs supporting an environment where employees can do their best work 
  • Go to HR when you need strategic support and guidance – strategic thought partners 
  • Solutions based ideas – get to “yes” unless it’s illegal or stupid 
  • Analytics – DATA driven 

Growing up, my mom always told me “What goes around comes around.” She tried to impart wisdom unto me that how I treated others would come back on me. Treat people like garbage, and I will be treated like garbage. Treat people well, and I will be treated well. Not necessarily by those people from whom received my actions, but in the largest sense, the Universe.

Ultimately, this was my mom’s way of saying the Universe (or God) is watching and will dish out what I deserved. Said another way, karma’s a bitch. Or sometimes it’s a sweetheart!

Legacy HR has prompted the Universe to rain upon my profession an acidic rain. I seek restorative justice for people, but decades of Legacy HR has left us vulnerable and our people suffering. HR has much to overcome – a majority of it done to itself.

It’s more complicated, I’d argue, of course. Good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. Good and bad are just concepts that humans attach to neutral events and situations, so even there, good and bad are just reflections of the owner.

But I can’t help but notice that ultimately in my experience, there does seem to be a mystical karmic spirit in the Universe. Maybe the Universe truly is watching. Or maybe the Universe is largely indifferent and uncaring. Ultimately, we are what we think, and those who put good vibes in the world tend to see good vibes return to them. The same can be said of those who put out negative vibes.

According to Hindu philosophy, Karma is any action. Every action or intention, whether physical or mental, creates an energy that is sent into the universe, which comes back to you in the future. Some consider it a spiritual equivalent of Newton’s law. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I recently read an Instagram post about the “12 Laws of Karma.” This article from here, on which I base much from this article, is a great primer. If what we put out into the Universe is returned to us, what does this mean for those HR pros who want to move on from Legacy HR and to usher in Modern HR? Well, maybe the 12 Laws affect us in these ways…

1. The Great Law: Whatever we put into the universe will come back to us.

HR Implications: This one seems easy enough. Be kind, and you will have kindness. Work hard, and others will work hard for you. Respect, and you will be respected. The beautiful thing is that each of these beginnings are within our sphere of control – we can choose to be kind, work hard, and be respectful. What we get in this life is under our direct influence (mostly). If you want HR to be seen as impactful, do impactful things. If you want HR to be respected, do respectful things. Knock down old barriers to success within the organization. Craft and implement policies that enhance others, add value to their experiences, and build them up. Work for others, and you will have this returned to you.

2. The Law of Creation: Life doesn’t happen by itself. We must actively go out there and make it happen.

HR Implications: Legacy HR is something we need to actively challenge! When someone says “Uh oh, HR is here. Who’s fired?” This is Legacy HR. When a team is talking about the water cooler and then goes silent when HR walks in. That’s Legacy HR. When someone needs to turn in their mother’s obituary to get Bereavement Leave approved, that’s Legacy HR. The world is changing. HR practitioners must change with it, and actively! We cannot sit on the sidelines and let the world dictate what HR is. We know it better than anyone else, and we must show up with humanistic, people-focused solutions. Otherwise, our world will be dictated to us, and Legacy remains reality.

3. The Law of Humility: In order to change something in your life, you first have to accept it as it currently exists.

HR Implications: We need to do a self-audit. Anyone who clings to Legacy HR needs to retire, change professions, or change their minds. And anyone with modern tendencies need to help them with this journey! Nothing will change without an honest look at what we do and how we do it. We must acknowledge that Legacy HR is real, and we need to do away with it! If it doesn’t add value to the journey onto Modern HR, then it needs to go. There is no movement without friction, and honest self-acceptance bridges the gap between friction and progress.

4. The Law of Growth: When we change ourselves, our lives follow suit and change, as well.

HR Implications: Once we accept that HR as it has been (and in some instances is) practiced is a big part of the issue, then we can open up the doors towards true change. The only people who can advocate and change themselves are themselves. Continue to be better. Continue advocating and making changes for the betterment of our people, and overtime, we will see growth and change in the profession and our professionals.

5. The Law of Responsibility: We must take ownership for what is in our lives.

HR Implications: This is related to the Law of Humility. We must humble ourselves and take radical ownership in changing the profession. Radical ownership requires humility and is a consequence of humility. Jenn Kennedy states it perfectly when she writes that radical ownership is “when you put that radical responsibility into action. You have a plan, and you own the hell out of it. You take the initiative, and you realize that you and only you are responsible for executing your plan. You are the one that’s accountable for it all.”

6. The Law of Connection: The law of connection states that everything (including nature, people, time) is connected in some way, including the past, the present, and the future.

HR Implications: This is one of the hardest things for many to conceptualize – especially in the west where individualization takes such a priority. Individualism is important, yes, but it cannot be at the expense of balance. All living an non-living things are part of one existence – one being. Time as well is an illusion. The past is connected to now. It’s the reason that we are struggling as a profession with lasting impact and being taken seriously. However, the future is connected to the now. We cannot change the past, but we can change tomorrow if we actively work towards our plan. Similarly, HR is connected to every part of the organization, so we are prime to fight the stigma that Legacy HR has bogged down our profession.

7. The Law of Force (or Focus): The law of force states that you cannot put your energy toward two things simultaneously. One cannot think of two things at the same time.

HR Implications: Many people claim to be excellent at multitasking, but the research continues to show this is not the case. People cannot split their attention without splitting their results. We get distracted, less effective when we try focusing on too many initiatives at once. Like the old saying goes, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. Focus on changing HR with one thing at a time, and we will accomplish much more, and with better results.

8. The Law of Giving and Hospitality: Our behaviors should match our thoughts. Think selflessness, being giving to others, and practicing what you preach.

HR Implications: Many folks talk about being people centric, but policies say the opposite. To create true change requires dismantling those parts of the system that create distress, distrust, and disgust. It will take courage, justice, patience, but it is important to walk the walk. Talking is meaningless at best, and detrimental at worst, without accompanying action.

9. The Law of Here and Now: One cannot be present if one is looking to the past or to the future.

HR Implications: Mindfulness is something of a misunderstood term, if not an annoying buzzword. The concept has been around for millennium in religions and philosophies both eastern and western. Modern science confirms what ancient mystics knew. Mindful practice boosts mood, gratitude, and health. The only moment that truly exists is this one. The past doesn’t exist. The future doesn’t exist. Only the here and now matters toward ultimate change and positivity. Focus on what needs to be done today and do the work.

10. The Law of Change: To make change, we must acknowledge and learn the lesson.

HR Implications: Pema Chödrön wrote in When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Learning is part of growing. This is why failure is the greatest teacher. But it is only a great teacher if we are good students. We must listen to the lesson. We need to pay attention to what the Universe is trying to show us. This requires humility, reflection, and acknowledgement.

11. The Law of Patience and Reward Consistent work pays off.

HR Implications: Show up and do the work, and rewards follow. Keep moving forward. Don’t stop. We can slow down as needed – it’s a must at times, especially when our health is at risk. But we must never stop moving forward. The journey commands it. The future of our profession truly needs those who consistently battle against the Legacy HR that still plagues our people. Do the work for them, and we all see the rewards.

12. The Law of Significance and Inspiration: We all have value due to our unique gifts.

HR Implications: This journey will take many amazing HR folks, folks with different skills, experiences, and ideas. We all have amazing talents, unique abilities, and gifts. Our role is to share our gifts with the world and make a meaningful impact. It will happen. Not immediately but slowly over time – little by little, brick by brick until a new foundation is created for a brilliant city! This new city will be one where people are valued. Just remember, you are not small nor unimportant. Your contribution to the world is needed. It is important – we are all connected, and your connection is as vital as anyone else’s.

HR pros, our karma was sent into the Universe over the past decades. We are seeing the outcome from this inattentiveness to people. We get back what we put forth. Those professionals who succeed us deserve better, and they will get what we put forth. What we do affects our lives, their lives, and the lives of our people in a major ways, whether we’re aware of it or not.

Karma helps provide us a compass towards a better environment. It helps us understand that what we do affects us and the world around us. The more good we can collectively put out into the Universe helps provide us all a better place to live. But it starts with our selves.

Do good. Be good. Good returns.

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved

Published by Paul LaLonde

Husband. Father. Passionate about HR, helping people, and doing the right thing. Also, heavy metal, craft beer, and general nerd things! #SHRM19Blogger. Find me on Twitter at @HRPaul49 and LinkedIn. Thoughts, views and opinions on this site are solely my own and do not represent those of my employer or any other entity ​with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

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