HR Tech 2019: Marcus Buckingham on 9 lies HR needs to stop believing

At Thursday morning’s opening keynote at HR Tech, talent expert and author Marcus Buckingham encouraged attendees to take everything they thought they knew about HR and throw it out the window.

With the tight labor market and demand for enhancing the employee experience at all-time highs, HR leaders need to stop relying on tried and true methods to drive engagement, strategies that, he said, are all too often fueled by faulty research.

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“There’s a lot of noise out there. There’s a white paper there, a content maker here, a thought leader there–it’s hard to cut through it and go, ‘What’s real? What’s true?’ ”

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Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall’s book tackles some difficult truths about human resources.

To get to those answers, Buckingham suggested, HR leaders should stop believing nine lies, which he also recently laid out in his new book, Nine Lies About Work:

  1. People care which company they work for.
  2. The best plan wins.
  3. The best companies cascade goals.
  4. The best people are well-rounded.
  5. People need feedback.
  6. People can reliably rate other people.
  7. People have potential.
  8. Work/life balance matters most.
  9. “Leadership” is a thing.

“If you want to study something,” he said, “put your theories and your dogma aside and just study it as it actually is in the world.”

HR Tech 2019: How to get started on analytics

That concept, Buckingham said, extends to HR-technology tools, which he said should be configured around real-world workplaces–and not those traditional HR textbooks showcase.

“Build tools on the way the world actually is,” he said. “We’re moving into a world of big data, so we better make sure it’s good data in and good data out, not garbage in and garbage out. Just make good tools that help humans at work.”

HRE at HR TECH: Follow along for full conference coverage here.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at