Great HR Doesn’t Come from Big HR Shops

We here it all the time:

“They’ve got to much to lose to take that kind of a risk.”

Or statements similar to this.

As I travel out and about on the fall HR conference tour (most State level SHRM conferences happen in the fall) I’m reminded constantly that Big HR Shops (Fortune 500 companies, Big Government, Giant Non-Profits, etc.) are not who you should be turning to for the next great HR ideas.  Maybe you can turn to them for Best Practices – but is best practice – where you want to be?  Best Practice is by it’s nature – solid and fully vetted – for years.  It’s great HR from 5+ years ago. Safe. You can’t go wrong with Best Practice HR.  But please stop trying to act like it’s “great” HR – it’s not  – it’s more of the same HR.

There’s actually a name for this, it’s called Loss Aversion theory, which is basically:

“people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Some studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.”

What this all boils down to in HR is what you have to lose by taking a chance.  Want a industry changing benefit program?  You have to get way out of the box.  Big HR Shops don’t get way out of the box.  By the way – Google is a big HR shop – Giant.  So are most of the other companies you continue to use as examples of “Great” HR, but they really aren’t “great” HR.  I say this because I’m tired to hearing “more of the same HR” practices at conferences being played off as “Great HR” practices, and seeing my HR peers buy it as life altering HR. It’s not – unless you have a Delorean that can’t go back in time to when it was.

So you want Great HR, you want HR that will change industries in 5 years? Don’t get caught up with a brand – get caught up with an idea.  Too often we want the “brand” – “Oh, look Southwest Airlines HR is going to be talking – I MUST go see them!”  Stop!  Southwest was great 20 years ago – they aren’t anymore – they are the same now – which is still good – but not “Great”.  You don’t want to be like Southwest Airlines right now – you want to be like Southwest Airlines 20 years ago.  You’re goal is to find that session with that person you’ve never heard of – they have nothing to lose – they will probably have better ideas.

I’m probably on an island with this one.  Because everyone wants to hear about how the “Big Boys” are doing it – because if they are doing “it”, “it “must be good.  But you know I’m comfortable on this island – this island is full of start-ups you’ve never heard of and they are fighting to make it ever day and that fight propels them into a space the “Big Boys” won’t go.  This island has a bunch of creative HR pros who don’t have books published and aren’t paid to speak  – they get their hands dirty, they make mistakes – they – make – great HR.

7 thoughts on “Great HR Doesn’t Come from Big HR Shops

  1. Tim, Great post. As someone who works in a small company in the construction industry I’m tired of hearing about how “big guys” do HR. It’s not relelvant to most HR practicioners. At the end of the day how does Google’s recruiting strategy help me? I’m looking for installers, not programmers.

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