People at Work, Ep. 4: Enrique Rubio on why we need to hack HR

By Bev Attfield

4 min read

People at Work, Ep. 4: Enrique Rubio on why we need to hack HR

Hacking is a strong verb that’s become quite commonplace as a way to talk about changing something. Look around and it’s hack this, hack that. It’s starting to sound like changing anything is easy, if you just hack it. Our next guest on the People at Work podcast will tell you that hacking doesn’t equate to simple. Enrique Rubio is the founder of Hacking HR, and he’s an unstoppable force out to change Human Resources and its purpose in organizations.

That sounds like a formidable task. Enrique started this quest because he believes that HR should be about making people’s lives better. It’s no longer a transactional function to pay, hire, fire, and seek compliance in people. On the contrary, HR’s core function must now be about the experience that people have at work.

“I put technology, future of work, social entrepreneurship, business, startup, everything in the context of how all these things can make people's lives better. And that, to me, is what I'm striving to do, what I'm working on.”

Enrique Rubio

Enrique Rubio

Founder, Hacking HR

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Fortunately there are many who agree with Enrique. Since his first Hacking HR gathering in September 2017 in Washington DC, his movement has grown to include more than sixty cities in over 25 countries. These chapters are self-driven and volunteer-operated. Events include meetups and forums covering all manner of topics dedicated to dismantling the old guard of HR and embracing a new way of thinking and new technology to enable and support rapid change.

My conversation with Enrique digs into what it actually takes to make people’s lives better at work. This starts with creating a positive experience for everyone in the workplace. Enrique talks about three areas that leaders can focus on: being aware of the importance of employee experience (and acknowledging that there’s a problem in workplaces today); talking to employees; and tapping into aspects of day-to-day work life that impact experience.

However, Enrique stresses that when leaders pay attention to these three areas, they must do so with purpose in mind. This means that an authentic positive experience for employees isn’t possible unless the work they’re doing, and the collective actions of their team and organization, have meaning.

“If you don't do meaningful work, whatever else you do is meaningless. Regardless of where and how you allow your people to work—if they come to work to pet a dog or they’re remote in the mountains—it’s meaningless if they’re doing nothing that’s really relevant. Purpose at work to me is a very powerful thing.”

Enrique goes on to say that there’s wasted capacity for people to be inspired and purposeful at work. If we consider how much time in a typical work day is spent on unproductive thoughts and tasks, what might we achieve if we free people up to be more creative, innovative, and ultimately, productive? With an emphasis on purpose, people are encouraged to explore and experiment above and beyond the core aspects of their role. It requires courage to acknowledge slack in the system, but leaders would do well to turn this into something positive for their people and the organization rather than sinking countless soul-destroying hours into water cooler chatter and TPS reports.

And what happens to engagement when people are supported and recognized for the value they contribute, instead of time? I’m going to put my money on significant improvements in health, happiness, and quality of contributions. If these ideas have you thinking, take a listen to the podcast and join the conversation. It’s critical that we have it so that we can hack HR and improve the state of our workplaces today. 

About Enrique Rubio

Enrique is an HR & Tech Evangelist, founder of Hacking HR, and Fulbright Scholar. He discovers his best ideas and inspiration in the mountains while preparing for his 100 mile trail racing adventures.


Resources cited in this episode

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Good to Great by Jim Collins

An Everyone Culture by Lisa Laskow Lahey and Robert Kegan


Bev Attfield

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