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“It’s time to redefine HR. … I’m talking about our capabilities. Our impact. How we develop and support each other to evolve our field. This is about shaking free of legacy perceptions and dogma of our past and building something new.” – Lars Schmidt, from Redefining HR: Transforming People Teams to Drive Business Performance
There are people who inspire you, challenge you, demand you think differently. They expect nothing less than a mindset that confronts the status quo, but more appropriately, dismisses it. As the old saying goes, you can’t open new doors with old keys. These folks are locksmiths.
For me, one of the more impactful locksmiths is Jennifer McClure. She is an entrepreneur, speaker, and high-performance coach, who works with leaders to leverage their influence, increase their impact, and accelerate results. Frequently recognized as a global influencer and expert on the future of work, leadership, and innovative people strategies, Jennifer has decades of in-the-trenches leadership and executive experience.
I first met Jennifer in 2019 when I attended her SHRM National Conference mega session on “Disrupt HR.” I learned her take on what it meant to be a disruptor. To Jennifer, disruption means eschewing comfort. Comfort is the enemy of Awesome. Improvement. Innovation. Where there is pain, there is opportunity!
Some nerd who got to take a selfie with Jennifer at SHRM 2019 National Conference in Las Vegas.
This so changed my mindset on so much…. And I am eternally grateful for having her wake a place inside of me that begged to be up!
I am honored to have interviewed her for her #WISHRM21 session, “Future Ready HR.” In the session attendees will learn what skills, competencies, and mindsets that will define
effective HR Leaders in the future of work. They will learn how to embrace and lead change while developing high-trust, high-value relationships with business partners, as well as learn from real-life examples and lessons learned from leaders who have taken risks and disrupted HR in their organizations.
Without further ado, here is the one and only, Jennifer McClure!
1. I believe you’re a leader when it comes to challenging “legacy HR.” What is legacy HR and why is it important to challenge it?
I’m a product of “legacy HR”, and it taught me everything I know! I often tell HR leaders that I’m sharing with them how they can really step into the opportunity to have influence and impact in their organizations by also sharing all of the things that I did wrong. J
When I started my career in HR (ahem, Personnel) over 30 years ago, it was all about command and control, transactions, policies, procedures, and administration. You know, the Hits! I cringe sometimes when I think about how often I told a manager that they couldn’t do something without my permission, or quoted a passage from the handbook to an employee as a reason they couldn’t do something.
Thankfully, with some wise and patient bosses, some great mentors, and by discovering a plethora of great virtual mentors online through their blog and social media posts, I learned that there was a better way, and that true influence and impact is gained by having strong relationships, and an approach and reputation as someone who is not only knowledgeable in the ways of HR, but who also willing to listen, learn – and to admit to being wrong sometimes.
Great HR leaders really understand that their role is to ensure that their organization has the people that it needs, with the skills they must have to deliver upon strategic objectives. That requires creativity, innovation, and a willingness to think differently, because the world is always changing. “Legacy HR” was always about maintaining something, or keeping things the same. That’s never going to be a path forward, or to great impact!
2. You are one of the leading figures in the Disrupt HR movement! Can you give readers a little background on what “disrupting” means to you and how it adds value to the profession?
When people hear the word “disrupt”, they often think negatively. Chaos and disorganization may come to mind, and as a result, in the past, many leaders didn’t want to be association with such a word. But I believe that disruption is about seeking what’s new, and what’s next – even when things are going well. Those who truly embrace disrupting are never satisfied with the status quo. They know that to stay competitive – and to move their teams and organization forward – they have to think differently, and try new things.
One thing that is often missed by those who embrace disruption is that it also requires embracing failure. Not in the sense that “failure is awesome!”, but the fact that failure will happen when trying something new. I love this quote that is attributed to Henry Ford – “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again. This time, more intelligently.” To successfully “disrupt HR”, or to “disrupt the future of work”, it’s important to see failures as opportunities to learn, try again, and do something different. Disruption is typically an iterative process, and many leaders aren’t comfortable with that. I believe that Future-Ready HR leaders must not only embrace disruption in their function, but also lead and champion it in their organizations.
3. Without giving away too much from your session, what is the #1 key skill HR professionals NEED in today’s workplace to be impactful?
I’ll over-deliver here, with not one, but FOUR key skills I believe that HR professionals need to achieve success in the future of work:
Know the business
Solve business problems
If you want to know more about how you can do that, I’ll share more in my session! 😉
4. In your experience, do you feel many HR practitioners are hesitant to challenge the organizational legacies of their workplaces? If so, or even for those who are, how can folks overcome that hesitation or fear?
Yes. Many HR practitioners are hesitant to challenge the status quo. Sometimes, it’s because they’re not interested in change. Sometimes, it’s because their organizational leadership isn’t interested in them changing. And sometimes, it’s because they don’t know how to approach their work differently.
For those who are personally not interested in changing, or their organizational leadership views HR as transactional and administrative, unfortunately, they’re going to be left behind. Their careers and their organization will never be as successful as they could be, because the world of work is changing at a faster pace than ever before. Employees think differently about work, and technology has – and will continue to – completely change the game. Staying the same really isn’t an option anymore, and it will affect their organization’s ability to attract, develop, and retain the talent that they need – which is the core purpose of HR.
For those who don’t know how to approach their work differently, I’ve got great news! There has never been a better time to take charge of your learning and development, and to connect with progressive HR leaders and thought leaders. The internet has essentially democratized learning. You an access an infinite supply of free to reasonably priced training courses (check out WI SHRM 2021 keynote speaker Laurie Ruettimann’s LinkedIn Learning courses) on demand. You can read blogs from fellow HR practitioners like this one from Paul LaLonde, or from SHRM Board Member Steve Browne. And by intentionally using social media to connect and learn, you can build relationships, and follow a strong and supportive #HRCommunity located around the world.
5. If we are going to dismantle HR as we know it, or at least challenge some of its more enduring functions, what do you feel needs to be rethought or replaced first?
I believe that you’re a leader in HR, regardless of your job title, or your position on the Organization Chart. Any job that you hold in HR comes with a tremendous opportunity to influence and impact the organization, because you are influencing and impacting the people who are delivering upon its purpose.
For too long, HR leaders have viewed their role as a support function, and something that is done in the background, or the shadows. It’s my mission in life to help HR leaders (remember, that’s you) to see and step into this amazing opportunity. That journey starts with discovering and developing a strong personal brand, and adopting a continuous learning mindset.
6. In one (if you can) sentence, what is the future of HR?
The future of HR requires leaders who are Curious, Determined, Innovative, and Disruptive.
7. Lightning round! Time for some extra fun!
Where is the most unique place you’ve visited?
What is your favorite book?
What are your horses’ names and why?
Roxanne (Roxxy) came to me in 2015 with that name. My trainer saw a picture of her in a Facebook group, and convinced me to buy her without even meeting her. I’m glad I trusted her, and made that crazy decision. Roxxy has changed my life for the better.
HRH The Princess Royal (Nahla) is my baby. I was there for her birth, and her mom was my heart horse, who has since passed away. Her mother (Sarabi) was my Queen, so I chose Nahla’s show name to reflect the highest honor given to a female member of the royal family. Since that was a bit fancy, I chose Nahla as her barn name, because I like Halle Berry’s daughter’s name. Weirdly, both Sarabi and Nahla are names in The Lion King, but neither were named from that. 😂
If you could have “walk-up” music any time you entered a room, what would that song be?
What is your drink of choice?
If you know, you know – there is only one.