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The Right Workplace

3 Things HR Can Learn from the Royal Wedding

Ron Jones
Contributor: Ron Jones
Posted: 05/10/2011

I found myself watching the royal wedding and enjoying its tradition and pageantry. I was also struck by the number of people who were watching it – not just television spectators, but the extraordinary number of people who turned up to the Abbey and then waited for the balcony scene.

It occurred to me that we were actually witnessing an amazing turnaround in the fortunes of the royal family. In the last few years, the antics of various members of the household had proceeded to outdo each other-- and their ancestor in reaching truly new heights of bizarre behavior. I am sure that in some people’s view, the Royal family was synonymous with irrelevance and stupidity. For many others, it was time to update by becoming a republic.

So what has changed? How has the wedding of two people created such a groundswell of support? From an HR perspective, it is worth considering a set of factors that may be of some relevance.

1. Firstly, this is the first wedding of a likely future monarch in our lifetime. For a generation that has been raised on the romance and magic of Harry Potter and Edward Cullen, this is the fantasy that became a reality. It is a good news story that people can directly relate to. We can forgive the excesses of the father and grandmother, because "the kid" seems to have turned out okay, and actually seems to be quite sensible. He has survived scandal and tragedy within the family, and this gives everyone else the hope that they can do so as well.

Prince William has effectively said, "I know what they are all like. But I think I can do a better job, and I’m going to give it a go." His decisions have reinforced loyalty as a highly-prized value in its own right. We want loyalty to be demonstrated by employees and by organizations to each other, and sometimes this means having to take the good with the bad.

2. Secondly, most of us struggle with planning for future leadership. Succession planning is often complex and not all of the seeds we plant may actually sprout. The royal family hasn’t been very good at it either, but what they have done is to clearly signal what the future is likely to look like in impending years. The response is overwhelming endorsement.

In organizations, we are not always so prepared to tell staff what future plans for the leadership group might look like. We like to be very secretive about who will take over from someone else when they retire or who has been identified as a potential successor to the CEO.

Perhaps it is far better to be open and engage with staff on these issues. Who knows? They might even welcome knowing what is happening.

3. Thirdly, the importance of history cannot be ignored.

All organizations have a history which should be acknowledged and celebrated as an essential element of informing staff and potential staff about purpose and responsibilities. History and tradition help define the basis on which organizational culture is shaped. There is little point in trying to re-define the history-- or even to ignore it-- in attempt to create a culture which is perceived as being more appealing. Organizations are what they are, and no amount of window dressing or sloganeering will change that.

When we are involved in recruiting or informing potential staff about our organizations, we should have the courage to be honest, transparent and to allow others to make the choice as to whether it is the right place for them or not.

I believe we are about to see a major transformation in the attitude of staff, with loyalty playing a much stronger role than it has with previous generations. The challenge for HR is to recognize this and adjust our thinking about how to begin engaging this new generation of employees.

Ron Jones
Contributor: Ron Jones
Posted: 05/10/2011