Traditionally, the HR role has been considered a risk-averse function. Unlike other verticals, the scope for innovation and overhauling the system can be limited. It might have something to do with how the entire concept of HR has been wired as a ‘compliance-ensuring’ entity, which has hampered the risk-taking ability of HR leaders. That, however, is changing. The fear of failure has given way to a vision that will help HR evolve into an anchor for the organization and also make the business agile. However, an increase in experimentation also leads to a higher rate of failure. Let’s take a closer look at the concept of failing fast and how it can be an opportunity for success.
People, especially in India, generally take a lot of time to trust others. An air of superiority, combined with a deep-rooted sense of mistrust, results in an impeding cultural barrier that can lead to a swift rejection of any employee policy or tool that is deemed even remotely alien or ambiguous. Every employee works in order to satisfy their intellectual pursuits and to solve relevant business challenges. In this context, any process that works with a stick instead of a carrot isn’t likely to succeed, at least not in spirit. Systems and processes must built to attract people in order to succeed.
The Importance of Failing Fast
It is important to fail fast and not waste time on a lost cause. Achieving success for the first time without fully understanding how it was achieved, and then obtaining sub-optimal results in the future is bound to result in frustration. The move towards digitization of HR is based on two critical levers: optimizing inefficient processes and understanding expectations to solve day-to-day employee challenges. Any employee intervention needs to cater to both, but even if it does, there is no guarantee that it will work. If it fails, it is important to look at what went wrong – the approach, the design, the process, or the effort? Furthermore, it is equally essential to recognize what was done right. Failing at something quickly offers a unique opportunity to introspect, course-correct, and identify strengths and weaknesses in a timely fashion. Additionally, it paves a way for going back to the drawing board and correcting and any fundamental flaws or oversights. At the end of the day, what counts is how the leader and the team accept and learn from the failure. Likewise, the leader needs to let the team know that they did a good job and jointly decide the future course of action.
Experiment More – Fail More
Even establishing and well-oiled processes might fail to encourage employees to want to participate and engage. In order to lay the foundation for a truly path-breaking change, a leader needs to: one, be ready to do things differently; two, be willing to engage employees; and three, identify failure swiftly. Another crucial aspect is to deliver the right solutions to the right people at the right time. No matter how well-meaning a policy or engagement tool is – if the time, or deliver mechanism, or the audience isn’t right – it will falter. In other words, to create a sustainable and scalable solution, HR leaders need to keep trying and keep failing in order to succeed.
Make no mistake, this isn’t an attempt to glorify failure, but to encourage leaders and individuals to try fast, fail fast, and learn from it, and eventually succeeding.
(This article is based on the session ‘Can HR Really Fail Fast to Deliver Better Output’ by Biplob Banerjee, Exec VP HR and CSR Jubilant Food Works and Yuvaraj Srivastava, Group CHRO, MakeMyTrip, and chaired by Chaitanya Peddi, Cofounder and Product Head, Darwinbox, on Day One of TechHR 2018.)