Changing Work, Workforce and Workplace: Reducing Dissonance through Four Crucibles of Authenticity

Published 15 August 2019

Being authentic is a pre-requisite for successful and effective human capital practitioners. That said, our synthesis shows that even authentic leaders can fall into the trap of having inauthentic practices.

Authentic leaders can get trapped because of how the system works, and the fact that they have a contractual obligation to toe the line (to be conscious of their fiduciary duties). Take the example of a retrenchment or layoff exercise. We have heard many stories of how retrenchment notices have been given just in time for employees to pack their things and be escorted out of the building. HR leaders are obliged to follow the system even though they may not agree with such procedures.

Are these procedures authentic and who sets the standard of authenticity? Our synthesis points in the direction of authenticity prevailing when the organisation has practices in place that make human capital, human. Leaders need to be capable of building more authentic practices, and this is often much more challenging than simply being an “authentic self”.

Here are four crucibles of authenticity in response to digital disruptions, shifting diversities and discontinuation of business models, structures and processes.

Crucible # 1: Authentic Development

Organisations have a long way to go when it comes to talent development. They have yet to recognise that development largely happens between manager and employee.

Sunny Verghese, Co-founder and CEO, Olam International, shares “Employees have to believe in you, and they have to see you are authentic. They have to feel comfortable that you have their best interests at heart. It is not that you are a soft leader. It is that you want them to develop to their full potential. And you will, therefore, provide them with opportunities that will test and try them. You have to be willing to take feedback from them. You can give feedback in a way that results in people rejecting you. Or you can give them feedback that will make them move into action. To move them to take action, they have to believe in your authenticity. That is key.”[1]

Crucible # 2: Authentic Inclusion

At its core, inclusion is about an employee’s experience – it’s about belonging (being seen and being heard). With new HR technologies focusing on the ‘talent experience’ rather than ‘talent management’, organisations will be better placed to mobilise their talent ecosystem. Shaakun Khanna, Head of Human Capital Management Applications at Oracle in JAPAC adds that:

“Invisible talent is the biggest untapped potential of organisations. Ironically most HR teams are struggling with the right ‘visibility’ of and to the talent.”[2]

Crucible # 3: Authentic Communication

This is not only about ‘walking the talk’ but also ‘talking along the walk.’

Leaders need to continually talk with employees and get their feedback on the practices in place — and to act on that feedback.

According to CIPD, “Existing organisational systems may neglect the ethical aspects of ‘voice’ which create value for workers and can enable them to have a more meaningful voice. Developing a holistic approach, which prioritises outcomes for individuals as well as for the business, can drive shared value creation and business sustainability.”[3]

Crucible # 4: Authentic Engagement

Despite substantial investment, most employee engagement programmes fail[4]. Inauthenticity is one of the reasons for this, regardless of whether it is real or perceived.

Professor Randall S Peterson, London Business School’s Leadership Institute laments, to engage staff, leaders may be tempted to simply ‘sell’ them reasons to be passionate about their role or encourage them to feel grateful for having a job with their company. This approach is woefully insufficient and does nothing to engender authentic engagement. Leaders need to identify and employ strategies to bolster genuine employee commitment, influence, expression, and emotional engagement.” [5]

If organisations can authentically execute these four practices, the return on their human capital investment has the clear potential to be higher and the benefit to the organisation to be significantly more sustainable over time.

It seems to us, therefore that there is no time like the present to get started.

This article is 11 of 12 in our Human Capital Prisms series.
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[1] Verghese, S. (2014, February 4). Reflections on Leadership with Sunny Verghese. Retrieved from

[2] Bhattacharyya, R. (2018, November 20). Use of technology can help in hiring right people: Shakun Khanna. Retrieved from hiring-right-people-shakun-khanna/articleshow/66701404.cms?from=mdr

[3] Baczor, L., & Wong, W. (2017, September 19). What is The Future of Employee Voice? Retrieved from

[4] Murphy, E. (February 20) Why Employee Engagement Programs Fail. Retrieved from

[5] Peterson, R. (2017, January 17). People Management Issues are the Top Business Leaders’ Challenges. Retrieved from challenges

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