Lucy Adams was the BBC’s HR director during one of its most turbulent periods. As the organisation dealt with a series of very public crises and scandals, she faced a torrent of criticism for her decisions and actions.
During Xerocon London, Lucy drew upon her experience at the BBC and in other senior HR roles. She talked about why delivering change isn’t always popular, and why many accepted ideas of leadership aren’t up to the job.
Lucy’s business, Disruptive HR, helps leaders and those in HR to manage people in unique and creative ways.
Building a workforce in a disrupted world
We’re currently living in one of the most rapidly changing and disruptive periods. And with a multigenerational workforce, expectations of millennials, trust in leadership and popularity of new work trends, it’s difficult to keep up with it all.
At Xerocon, Lucy challenged us to think about how we can increase productivity, engagement and innovation with our employees so that we can bring the best out of our workforce.
“These are really big asks, particularly when trust in leadership is at its lowest point ever, globally”
Do things differently
“Those old command and control practises just don’t work anymore. The old HR manual doesn’t work anymore.”
Lucy shared her perspective on leadership: “The best leaders who lead through change, are really great human beings. To lead effectively, we need humility. To be able to say ‘I’m sorry I got that wrong – I don’t know, what do you think?’ And to be vulnerable is to gain the trust of your employees. That’s what we are lacking in our current world.”
The EACH model: employees as adults, consumers and human beings
Lucy left us with a new model for implementing HR practices in our workplace. Let’s put the ‘human’ back into ‘human resources’.
“A lot of our relationships are not very adult – they’re very parental.” Looking after our employees comes from a good place, she says, but it is infantilising.
“Generally, our approach to policy development is that we don’t trust: we create a rule or policy that stops anyone from doing anything bad ever again. The downside of this is creating a culture that is parent-child. This leads to passivity and compliance, but doesn’t drive challenge, innovation and risk-taking.” Treat your employees like adults, and they’ll deliver incredible results.
Lucy shared how humanity in leadership is also very important. Asking your employees about their day, admitting wrong-doings or lack of knowledge, or valuing their input in a decision. These small changes generate higher levels of trust and drive the innovation and resilience that we need in today’s workforce.
“We have a massive opportunity with disruption – of course, it can be scary and threatening. But for those people who get it, it can come with massive opportunities. And at the heart of that, is human.”