HR Strategy

Why this HR transformation pro hates the term ‘journey’

“Isn’t it time we break free from this restricting cliché?” says Jamie Aitken.
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Jamie Aitken

· 4 min read

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Jamie Aitken’s entire HR career has been focused on transformations. She has worked on cultural transformations, business transformations, HR transformations, the works. Aitken said her fascination with solving puzzles led her down this professional path.

Aitken is VP of HR transformation at Betterworks, a tech company focused on refining performance management, “so that it’s not a twice-a-year process, but rather it’s continuous conversations, feedback, recognition, etc.”

Aitken is a little different from our typical coworkers featured in this series because she works with HR professionals to help them overhaul their performance management systems so they’re better aligned with business goals and have buy-in from employees, managers, and leaders. It’s exciting work because “sadly…we’ve been talking about changing this in HR for about a billion years,” she said.

What’s the best change you’ve made at work?

Ten years ago, mental health wasn’t being talked about like it is today, and I’d go as far to say it wasn’t even a priority in the workplace. When a client wanted to fundamentally shift their culture, specifically the relationship between line managers and direct reports, I helped them incorporate mindfulness, meditation, and critical thinking into the internal revamp to boost employee engagement scores. As a result, those managers became more self-aware and more open to an empathetic leadership style, resulting in employees feeling more understood, supported, and engaged at work.

What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your job?

HR is so much more than paperwork, bureaucracy, or solely handling traditional HR tasks. The role of the HR leader matters more today than it ever has, as HR professionals can step in to confront and address issues like high turnover rates and disengaged employees, and have a truly transformative effect on an organization. In working with many HR professionals over the years, oftentimes they don’t realize the immense value they bring to the table, and responsibility they have, in terms of creating a vibrant and productive workplace. Now is the time for HR to assertively contribute to how businesses are operated and how employees are taken care of.

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What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

This has been one of the most exciting times in my career because it’s all about change. There are so many different challenges from an HR perspective that are directly related to the transformations businesses are going through in terms of the workforce, workplace, and marketplace. Stepping in to help guide some of these changes and witnessing improvements to areas like employee engagement and performance management, each of which are vital to achieving successful business outcomes, has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my job.

What trend in HR are you most optimistic about? Why?

The use of AI in performance management processes. The HR life cycle has been segmented for so long, and I think AI has the capability to integrate our processes, allowing for organizations to bring together multiple streams of data to paint a more complete and accurate picture of talent strategy. I believe that AI will be able to break down silos that are detached from business needs, and allow us to pivot away from the traditional HR mindset. We have become so accustomed to honing our specific processes that we forget the bigger picture. Instead, we need mechanisms that help us engage in each HR process on an ongoing basis—and that’s where I think AI can help.

What trend in HR are you least optimistic about? Why?

HR jargon, specifically the use of the word “journey,” because I believe it fails to reflect the dynamism and evolution of modern HR. In some ways, HR is about guiding employees on their professional “journeys,” but isn’t it time we break free from this restricting cliché? When we say journey, we’re portraying that there’s a specific path every employee and every company should follow. It makes HR sound like it has a beginning, middle, and end when, in reality, it’s a constantly evolving process.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.