The Girls Of Riyadh. #NewToHR

The Girls Of HR

Stimulating much-needed creative reform in the world of HR often benefits from bringing in useful ideas from outside the department, and finding out whether they have anything useful to contribute.

The world of literature is a rich depository for all sorts of creative wisdom, and the characters in books often have their doppelgängers in our own lives – in fact that is why the books draw us in in the first place!

Take Rajaa Alsanea’s ‘Girls of Riyadh‘.

When minds fail to meet and the fear of missing performance targets stifles self-expression and creativity, the average HR employee can feel that they’re restricted every bit as much as the four girls in the novel – only they get to go home. But looking around the office, isn’t it true that we’re all just people?

Human Resources should be about getting the best out of people so is not it ironic that we sometimes struggle to bring in a culture of creativity because we spend more time fighting each other than trying to pool our talents and achieve as a team.

Let’s look at how Alsanea’s protagonists map on to the workplace, and how their strengths could be used for benefit.

Sadeem – the romantic

Sadeem embodies that vital spark of hope that promises things will be better in the future and can represent that person in the department who has wild, fanciful ideas about improvements but is so often paralysed by a lack of support and planning.

But if we agree that we all want the HR workplace to be a creative, fulfilling place we need to stop shouting these people down and search for the kernel of truth that can be built upon.

Michelle – the agent of change

Michelle, with her American background is not shy in telling everyone around her what needs to change. Studies have found that a ‘speak-up‘ culture (as opposed to group-think subserviance) leads to 74 per cent more creative strategies being implemented. Focusing Michelle’s whirlwind of energy on changing the workplace to help the romantic ideals of Sadeem blossom can rapidly transform the restrictive HR department.

Gamrah – steadying the ship

Throughout Girls of Riyadh, it becomes clear that the girls are not looking to escape their cultural responsibilities and backgrounds but to mould them to better serve their aspirations.

Gamrah, as the most conservative of the quartet, respects the status quo more than most and, in the workplace, such characters can ensure that the reality of the workplace is accepted and respected through the change process. But in the excitement of progress, voices such as Gamrah’s are often overlooked.

Change affects everybody, and all employees must be given the space to air their opinions and put forward their contributions.

Lamees – the strategist

Finally, Lamees has a happy knack of getting what she wants, and such characters are invaluable when they are on your side (and a nightmare when they are not). The subtle (and not so subtle) power plays of office politics need to be carefully observed so that the right suggestions are put to the right people at the right time. People like Lamees have this off to a tee.

Looking in at the HR department in terms of its people (which is what we should be good at) will often reveal interesting power dynamics which don’t necessarily flow from top down.

© New To HR


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