From HR Policies to Human-Centric Philosophies

Community Blog
Written by Jason Larson

MARCH 30, 2021

“Hi, my name is Melinda HR. Here at ACME you will be treated like an adult. Now go meet your manager and have a great first day.”

It’s the dawn of a new war for talent as millions of workers put pressure on their organizations to seize the moment and re-design how and where work gets done. It’s customary for a new-hire to sit down with HR on the first day of their job and go over important paperwork and company policies. While we may not be able to remember these meetings, we’ve all been there. But imagine if this meeting looked something like the opening line of this article. If that were the first new-hire interaction with the organization. Full stop. No rules and regulations. No policies and passwords. Just those couple dozen words. How might that radically shift the tone and tenor of the company culture, employee engagement, and even productivity?  

Of course I’m taking this new-hire scene to the extreme, and the extreme is a good place for us to start. Because what’s not extreme is what top-talent is looking for in the places they work. They want to work at a company grounded in a people philosophy. They want to work at a company that recognizes the hypocrisy of using a phrase like people philosophy and then being pointed to a policy to justify a “human resource” decision. They want to work at a company that quite literally takes a philosophical approach to all aspects of one’s working life — from dress codes to performance reviews to work locations. 

I understand that this is not easy for large corporations. You may have tens of thousands of employees distributed across the globe. You surely have a complex ecosystem of competing priorities and roles and responsibilities. The engineer over here will experience a different employee life cycle than the account executive over there. And yet sound philosophies can withstand the pressures of opposing viewpoints and epochs of time. In fact, they thrive in such conditions. 

For example, Susan Kelliher at The Chemours Company deserves a round of applause for the work she’s done to transition Chemours into a “policy light” enterprise. Chemours has shed many of its policies in favor of guidelines to support employees in the decisions they make. She recommends starting small with things like eliminating dress codes and then tackling meatier — and more engrained — aspects of the business like performance reviews. 

Every company is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to what Kelliher is doing at Chemours, but I challenge large corporations in particular to take the pandemic as an opportunity to innovate their approach to workforce strategy and design. Salesforce recently hit headlines with their move to flex work, and Target is giving up office space in downtown Minneapolis to accommodate a partial WFH model. 

How enterprises frame their employee “life experience” and respond to workforce desires (nearly 50% of employees are expected to WFH at least part of the time) will dominate philosophical arguments for months to come. 

Remember, start small. Then, go big. Really big.


Jason Larson headshot

Jason Larson

Director, Content at Evanta, a Gartner Company


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