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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

'Disruption': Emerging Challenges to HR Management

Today, a wave of ‘disruption’ in industrial processes appears to be all set to unsettle the traditional industry. It indeed is emerging as a great threat to our known ways of managing the economy even. The biggest challenge it poses is: to be ready for the disruption too lately and in the process miss the revolution, or to get ready too early and in the process exhaust the resources well before the revolution begins. The only answer for this challenge lies in knowing fully well about the ecosystem in which alone the new technology can operate and its existence or otherwise.

Human resources is the main component of any such ecosystem, for innovation becomes paramount in mastering disruptive technologies. Which means, the leadership right from the top down to the unit level management has to change its mind-set to a model that encourages innovation—a mind-set that incubates and adopts innovation. This obviously calls for designing encouraging incentives to attract and retain the requisite entrepreneurial talent. In short, the leadership must create an agile enterprise—an enterprise that believes in “trying new ideas and failing rather than not trying at all.”

As against this, according to Daniel Cable, Professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School, what we mostly witness in organizations today is: huge number of employees drifting through the nine-to-five “commute to the week-end”. He further asserts that “this disengagement of employees is simply a motivational problem.” He therefore opines that what organizations need to do is not poaching employees from competitors but to unleash the dormant enthusiasm of the existing employees.

This obviously calls for a leader to first understand why people lose their passion for what they do? Prof Cable says that all this disinterest, demotivation, etc., is a part of our biology: There is what is called the “seeking system” in our brain which induces natural impulses in us to learn new skills and take up challenging and meaningful tasks. As we follow these urges, we receive a jolt of dopamine—a neuro-transmitter linked to motivation and pleasure—which drives us to engage in these activities even more. Thus, as our ‘seeking system’ is triggered we feel more motivated and zestful. 

But unfortunately, what most of the organizations are found to often do is: sap employees of their creativity and sense of purpose
  • by pressing them to confine to protocols,
  • by not letting them try new things, and
  • by not granting them free space to express their uniqueness.
Simply put, unwittingly organizations deactivate employees’ ‘seeking systems’. And “when seeking systems are not active”, as the neuroscientist, Jaak Panksepp says, “human aspirations remain frozen in an endless winter of discontent.”

So, this needs to be changed, and to be changed more quickly, for creativity will be the driving force in today’s world of disruption. And Cable says that leaders can make this change happen. All that they have to do is trigger employees’ ‘seeking systems’ by practicing three simple nudges:
  • encourage employees to play to their strengths,
  • create opportunities to experiment, and
  • help them develop a sense of purpose about what they do in the organization that goes beyond the pay cheque.
Since time immemorial, Pundits have been telling that people have an innate drive to show others who they really are. None of us want to carry on with the pre-programmed behaviours again and again.

So, leaders must encourage employees to bring their unique skills to the table and within the broad outline of the given job encourage them how they can help the team achieve goals. A second nudge is encouraging employees to think of new approaches to the given job, let them experiment and come back with the feedback as to how the ecosystem responded to their ideas. Similarly, help employees experience a sense of purpose of what they are doing by enabling them realize how their inputs are helping the team succeed.

It is by lighting up ‘seeking systems’ of employees through these nudges that a leader can make organizations alive to the demands of the mounting disruption all around.


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