4 Lessons from HBO’s Westworld

Professionals in the HR space can find more than their fair share of helpful advice from the characters of HBO’s WestWorld. It is, after all, a story about self actualization, interpersonal relationships, and questionable leadership.

And for those wondering if we’re dehumanizing the modern workforce by drawing comparisons to a rebellious group of programmed machines, well, maybe — but stay with us.

The following quotes from Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s AI masterpiece offer actionable insights into dealing with less-than-stellar employees, recruiting woes, and toxic management. So without further ado, scroll on, giddyup, and begin your loop:

1. The power of self-awareness


Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? Did you ever stop to wonder about your actions? — Dolores Abernathy

From interns to executive leadership, HR professionals are often tasked with facilitating hard conversations between employees at all different stages of their career. And when conflicts arise, one workplace truth will always come in handy: self-awareness.

By asking team members to take an unbiased, 360-degree view of their situation, you’ll invite them to critically assess how their own actions may be affecting others. And considering that only 10-15% of workplace employees are actually self-aware, this is a good exercise to go through with almost anyone in your company.

Peer and self assessments like performance reviews and personality tests offer employees the tools to understand themselves, and in turn, better understand their coworkers and everyday interactions. Ultimately, these initiatives should encourage team members to consider all of the moving parts that impact business decisions and relationships, helping to remove ego from conflict and put company goals back at the forefront of the conversation.

2. The secret to attracting top talent


They’re not looking for a story that tells them who they are. They already know who they are. They’re here because they want a glimpse of who they could be.  — Dr. Robert Ford

Here’s a hard truth for recruiters and HR teams trying to grow their company headcount: there are now more job openings than there are workers to fill them. Where once high salaries, office snacks, and unlimited vacation could easily sway a desirable candidate, businesses now have to identify their personal X factor to attract top talent.

The good news? You don’t have to pour more money into recruiting efforts to stand out in the crowd. One of the biggest factors in millennials’ choice to take or leave a job is connection to purpose. If HR teams can position their companies as places where employee growth and engagement are tied to real-world business results, you’re more likely to snag talent that will buy into the vision of your business and drive meaningful results.

The bad news? If you talk the talk, you need to walk the walk. Companies that boast employee development opportunities but fail to deliver concrete growth plans will leave your team plagued by high turnover and low morale.

3. How to prevent toxic cultures


When you find a cancer in an organization, you must cut it out before it can spread. — Dr. Robert Ford

We all know the signs of a toxic employee: gossip, lack of accountability, the list goes on. And though signs of toxic behavior may be easy to identify, few companies have concrete action plans for team members that engage in such insidious conduct, especially when the employee in question is well liked or a statistically high performer.

While these situations are often difficult to address, the truth remains that toxic behavior rarely fixes itself. Instituting an internal zero-tolerance policy will allow your HR department to immediately put poisonous team members on a performance improvement plan or help see them out the door before they influence the rest of your team.

Worried about being too extreme? According to Harvard research, “toxic employees destroy your culture and your bottom line”  – so don’t be afraid to take actions that protect your workplace environment and the goals of the business.

4. The ripple effect of poor leadership


The rest will follow wherever you make him go.
— Dolores Abernathy

Think of your managers and leadership team as the trendsetters of your office. The behaviors, attitudes, and work habits they exhibit will set the pace and tone for your office. Does your CEO have monthly meltdowns? Does your engineering lead take two-hour lunches? Regardless of the behavior, your employees will take note and follow suit.

So, if you notice your office culture taking a nosedive toward resentment and laziness, consider addressing it from the top-down. As HR, it’s our job to communicate with company leaders about the power of optics and leading by example.

If employees are to truly buy into your company’s mission, vision, and values, they must identify with the people who run it. That means managers and leads showing up for work, responding to conflict and high-stress situations with poise, and respecting each employee as if they were on the executive team alongside them.

These violent delights have violent ends…

Did we cover your favorite quotes? For ones we missed, make sure to share your best HR-Westworld crossover moments on social media and tag us at @youearnedit!

About Kazoo

Kazoo amplifies company culture through its award-winning employee experience platform that delivers engagement, retention, performance management, and improved business metrics. As a dominant force in the HCM market with an industry-leading retention rate, Kazoo partners with more than 400 global organizations to build high-performance cultures and engaged workforces. Founded in 2013, Kazoo continues to revolutionize the employee experience with its platform based on the science of motivation, rewards, and recognition. To request a demo, visit info.kazoohr.com/demo-request.