People of all ages choose to modify their hair color, and for many different reasons. Sometimes, it’s simply to give themselves a change, as when a young person colors their blond hair auburn or brunette hair blond. Sometimes, it’s just to call attention to oneself, or to demonstrate a complete disdain for convention, which probably explains blond-tipped brunette brush cuts or fuchsia locks in an otherwise blond head of long hair. Neither of these motives has anything to do with obfuscation, quite the contrary in many cases.
Of course, there are many other reasons for changing your hair color when the intention is obfuscation, even outright deceit. These include the full range of righteous to dastardly motives. Changing hair color can be part of a spy’s or a criminal’s disguise. It can change the appearance of a protected witness, be an important part of the tranformation of an actress into the real life person whose part they’re playing, or hide the effects of illness or injury. I’m told there are even folks who’ve changed their hair color because they believe that “blonds have more fun” or “brunettes are more intelligent.”
But, especially as we get older, very different patterns emerge. As our natural hair color changes with age, some patterns have emerged among my contemporaries;
- None of them — at least none among my immediate circle of family/friends/colleagues — have just let their hair grey in whatever way it chooses. Even those few who have gone grey in a lovely way do a little something to ensure that their grey is silvery and shiny. They’re at peace but still want to put their best foot forward.
- Some, like me, are entirely comfortable with aging and do nothing to disguise THE NUMBER (66 in my case) but don’t like the way aging hair colors (from dulling to greying) look on them. They change with the times, they reinvent their look, they adopt a more attractive color (normally lighter colors are recommended around the face as you age), at least until they’re ready (should they be so lucky as to develop gorgeous silver hair as has Ron) to go au naturel. There’s no hidden agenda here, not from themselves or the world around them, but there’s definitely a desire to put their best foot forward.
- Then there are those who are very uncomfortable with their aging and will do anything to conceal it from others and, I often think, from themselves. Some of them cling to the hair color of their youth (or remembered image of their youth) without realizing, perhaps, how obviously colored it looks. Nothing looks more fake than an older woman with determinedly brunette all over color next to her aging skin tones. No amount of makeup can recreate the skin tones of youth (except on stage) that really matched that hair color. Others adopt the platinum blond look of Jewish women of my mother’s generation, clinging to the conviction that platinum never ages. But both of these looks are clearly false no matter what the wearer believes — and a little sad.
Now what on earth does any of this have to do with HRM, with HR technology, or with any other meaningful topic for this blog? Actually quite a bit. As HRM software shows its age, and at least so far all software does age, the owners of that software have very similar decisions to make about how they will present their software into the autumn of its years. They can:
- Accept that they’ve got aging software, perhaps software which carries out fairly stable business processes, and software whose installed base may be slowly moving on but with those who remain quite content to use the software with modest enhancements and regulatory updates until they too are inclined to move on. They can acknowledge openly that their software isn’t intended for new sales, is only supported modestly, and that it will be turned off, sold off, or no longer supported when there isn’t enough maintenance revenue to justify the ongoing expenses of supporting it. There’s no shame in doing this, and also no reputational harm (in my opinion) to the rest of that vendor’s products and services. I’m a pretty grey, doing just a rinse to give it a little shine.
- Accept that they’ve got aging software but one whose customers really need/want a higher level of support, some at the edge innovation, the ability to use new devices and more, this vendor can make clear investments to put that best foot forward — but without any pretense of having the latest and greatest software under the covers. Lots of worthwhile investments can be made in refactoring, adding extended capabilities, refreshing partnerships, improving the user experience, and much more, and these investments can definitely give a fresher look to “the old gal.” But just like my beautifully (and expensively) layered hair color, which really does look quite natural to folks who don’t know me (and who don’t look too closely at the rest of me), it’s still Naomi under the covers. Again, no shame in doing this, and also no reputational harm (in my opinion) to the rest of that vendor’s products and services, especially if they’re upfront about what it costs to do that terrific hair color and how much of the customer’s maintenance fees are really going to other business initiatives. Or — and this is where customers should beware —
- Pretend their software isn’t aging, give it whatever they think represents the marketing color of youth (of course we have SaaS! of course we do mobile! of course we’re integrated! and yes, we can support the contingent workforce!), and hope that they’ll fool the world. Even when they combine this with lots of useful improvements, the big lie fools no one — and it does hurt their reputation in a way that affects their other products and services.
All of us age, and there’s really not a damn thing we can do about it. Of course we should take the best possible care of ourselves and put our best foot forward. But just as people make fools of themselves when they try to fool the rest of us into thinking that they’re still ingenues when they should be playing grand dames, so too do software vendors make fools of themselves when they try to pass off whatever they’ve got as what they think we want. Just sayin’