This weekend was a whirlwind of activity as HRevolution swept through Saint Louis. It was one of the best yet (I’ve heard from some that this one was the most impressive), and as I head back to work I want to keep a few of the great conversations and topics in mind. Here’s what you missed:

  • Nearly 50 practitioners and leaders in the space got together to crowdsource problems, build stronger networks, and get a new outlook on the future of this great profession. On the drive home my good friend Allen told me that he was pumped up and excited about putting some of the ideas into action.
  • The Morgan Street Brewery Lodge was amazing, and the food was incredible. I’m going to be running off the ten pounds I gained over the weekend. :-)
  • Mary Faulkner got us all talking about whether or not HR is ready for feedback, how we might be perceived in the organization, and how to respond to data showing dismal approval ratings. Most of us would be afraid to ask for feedback internally, but it’s a great way to ensure you’re meeting the needs of internal customers.
  • Franny Oxford and Paul Hebert helped to dig into positive HR, how we can help our organizations be more positive, and how to specifically bring our own happiness into the workplace every day. To be honest I thought the topic was simplistic, but it received more comments from the audience than pretty much every other session.
  • We had a new game during lunch based on the Jimmy Fallon Box of Lies bit. It was pretty darn hilarious and everyone seemed to enjoy the experience. Bottom line: we are terrible at being able to tell if people are lying to us. Or maybe HR people are great liars. Hmmm…
  • Jane Jaxon led a discussion around curating the organizational culture as the company grows. How do you scale some of the high-touch activities and experiences when you triple in size?
  • Tim Gardner brought the big company discussion with his experiences at Kimberly-Clark. It was a great look at how large organizations manage people and a realization for me that even big companies have people issues, just of a different scope and hue.
  • Katrina Collier helped to frame a discussion around increasing candidate engagement in a noisy social atmosphere. I think the corporate recruiters in the audience picked up some helpful tips and hints from the conversation.
  • Finally, Steve Boese led us on a hunt for revolutionary HR technology, and each group had to design its own solution and explore the market need, functionality, etc. Most of us think we could design better stuff than some vendors, but it’s not quite as simple as it sounds!
  • Finally, we had a sizable portion of attendees as first timers. It was great to meet Teresa, Angie, Katrina, Rob, Bernie, and so many other great folks. I love my long-time friends from the HR/recruiting space, but it is always great to expand that circle as well.

Thanks for our great sponsors, attendees, and my fellow planning crew for another great event. Mark your calendar for early June next year, because you don’t want to miss this experience.

keep fighting

Last week I spent several days with leaders at nonprofits from around the world at the LINGOS Global Learning Forum. It was a humbling experience, and I had some of my preconceived notions turned upside down.

In the past I would have imagined (based on my own experiences working in and with nonprofit organizations) that many nonprofits and NGOs are backward at worst and behind the times at best due to limited resources. That may be the case for some, but certainly not for the ones I talked with in Little Rock, Arkansas. There were groups focused on feeding the hungry, teaching people out of poverty, educating women and children in third world countries, providing clean water in Africa, and dozens of other amazing examples of world-changing ideals. What truly surprised me was the level of sophistication of the attendee population.

There were discussions on leading-edge technology, best practices for training and development, and global strategy implementations to reach millions of people. That doesn’t sound like the slate of topics for a group that is whining about how to get a “seat at the table.”

But how? Aren’t they dealing with tough budgets and limited resources? Yes, but because they know they have limits, they use it as fuel for innovation and creative thinking instead of a convenient excuse.

Honestly, I’m not here to beat you up. I’m guilty of using those same excuses. I don’t have time. I don’t have the budget. I don’t have… whatever. But when it comes down to it, there’s usually a way to get it done.

If they can face those same challenges and still feed a family in Peru, then those of us in the private sector need to toughen up just a bit. And remember when you’re supporting charitable organizations that they employ people like us to help them run smoothly and effectively.

Just a few thoughts to start your week of on the right tone.

What charitable organizations do you support? Why?

I spent last week at the Brandon Hall Group Excellence Conference, and it was an incredible event. Yes, I’d say that even if I wasn’t working for Brandon Hall Group. :-) I wanted to take time today to share a brief summary so you can get a sense of what was discussed, since most of you couldn’t be there.

I wrote about several sessions from the conference, and you can find notes and links to the full articles below. I’ll be sharing more over the next week–I’m still processing the conversations, sessions, and comments and trying to make sense of it all in the midst of getting over sleep deprivation. :-)

Talent is a Business Area, Not an HR Area

The first session I sat in on was the integrated talent management workshop. Attendees learned how to build a talent management strategy and some of the key pieces to include based on our research. For example, the top two talent concerns for businesses today:

Sustaining employee engagement (30%)
Developing high potential leaders and succession management (27%)

Read moreTalent Management is a Business Function

Developing Leaders Requires Effort

My favorite session on day two was a leadership development panel. I liked it because it wasn’t focused on selling me the idea of leadership development–it instead helped to offer insights into how to actually do it. As a practitioner I always had these kinds of questions:

  • What does leadership development look like?
  • How do we measure it?
  • How do we know if it’s working?
  • What should a program include?

Read more: Leadership Development Panel Insights

Getting Your Hands Dirty Unconference Session

The last session of the event, and one that I co-led with Trish McFarlane, was an unconference session. It worked out well because we had a group large enough to spur some great discussion but small enough to give each person an opportunity to share their input. We discussed learning challenges, talent issues, and more. I hope to write a full follow up post just to that session in the next week or two, because I want to highlight the unconference format and how you can use it in your daily work (hint: not your average boring meeting).

One of the Best Things, As Usual

One of the best parts of the event was the level of personal connection with attendees, sponsors, etc. I always love coming away from these events with new friends, and this was certainly no different. I also ran across an idea or two for some new research I hope to carry out in the coming year, and that has me excited as well.

This will be a long post and possibly only of interest to those who attended or follow the HRevolution happenings. If you think this will not be interesting or applicable to you, I’d read some before you bail. :-) And this certainly won’t be the last thing I share, either. As with past years, the concepts, ideas, and questions raised at HRevolution have a way of percolating to the surface on a regular basis. Some of what I write might be obviously tied in, but other pieces will not be. I definitely want to make time to further explore some of the sessions I sat in on, from HR Improv and Half Baked HR Ideas to Creativity/Innovation and the Reality-Based Live HR Case Study and more.

Just… Wow

When we get together for HRevolution, it’s a funny paradox. The combined social media following of the room numbers in the hundreds of thousands, and yet we don’t share nearly as much at HRev as we might at other events. Why? Because the engagement and dialogue are just that good. It’s the only explanation I can think of after seeing this phenomenon repeat itself over and over again. We’re more interested in learning, sharing ideas, and hearing the other participants share than we are in kicking out sound bytes via Twitter, Facebook, or insert-the-latest-social-media-tool-here.

So, what do we talk about? Here’s the briefest of snippets:

  • HR is broken.
  • No, it’s not.
  • We need to disrupt it.
  • Things can’t keep going the way they have.
  • Why aren’t other functions broken? Finance doesn’t have these discussions.
  • We are killing the future competitiveness of our workforce by training the creativity out of them.
  • And on and on. Some things funny, some things enlightening, and some things just plain amazing.

Those were a few of the comments that filtered through the event throughout the day, and those were just the ones that I actually heard–I know there were additional conversations going on about similar topics during the event.

When I get to the end of this event each year I have to stop and take a breath. This is not a lecture. This is not a seminar. This is a high energy, participatory event that makes you think. It challenges you to stop thinking “we can’t change that” and start thinking, “What if I stop/start/change that? What would happen?”

And, as usual, I heard this more than once:

This is my favorite event all year.

This event is different. It always has been and always will be. One person I was particularly excited about meeting for the first time is a long time reader of this blog: Kellee Webb. Kellee is an in-the-trenches HR pro, but she doesn’t let that stop her from innovating, growing her knowledge, and taking business challenges head on. It was an honor to meet her, and I hope to meet more of you in the future at this and other events. It is one of the highlights of getting to do this kind of work! It also shows that this isn’t some closed group or clique–this is wide open and available to anyone willing to put in a few hours to make it happen.

One of the other great things about this specific event was having some of my fellow Brandon Hall Group folks in attendance. Madeline Laurano and Rachel Cooke were able to see firsthand the great discussions, networking, and value that comes from a relatively small event like HRevolution. Trish and I have talked about the event’s nuances in the past, but it’s not quite the same as living it!

An observation about HRevolution

Other than people asking me how soon the baby is due (within a few weeks), :-) the second most discussed topic is the return to the HRevolution roots of crowdsourcing the location, the non-conference space, and the small group feel.

One of the ideas that kept fluttering around throughout the event was this: we wanted this fifth anniversary of HRevolution to be special. We wanted it to feel like a homecoming. A reunion. A celebration.

And that it did.

But it also helped me to see how far many of us have come since that first year. Many of us are in more senior roles or have stepped out of HR to run companies, be industry analysts, etc. My conclusion as to why that is the case: people who are drawn to HRevolution are not interested in the status quo. They don’t want to show up to work a year from now doing the same thing they are doing now. We still have plenty of practitioners (I’m still helping out my old company and advising others on an occasional basis just to keep me grounded, so I get a percentage of that at least!), and that makes me very excited about the future of this industry. This definitely bears more analysis, but that will have to wait for another time.

A brief synopsis of HRevolution 2014

Below you will find an incomplete, but hopefully helpful, timeline of tweets, pictures, and other memorable moments from HRevolution 2014. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it follows my journey through the event and I’ve noted some of my observations where appropriate.

Symbolist headquarters = amazing venue

Steve Boese kicking off HRevolution 2014

Franny Oxford doing a live HR case study

Great advice on taking a new role

Bonni says she’s with cool people–I think all attendees deserve that label!

Tim Gardner discussing HR processes and problem solving

Want real results to problems? Come up with deep, solid solutions

Lois Melbourne leading a session on creativity and innovation

Why creativity matters

Small group discussion on creative ways to solve HR problems

Ravi Mikkelsen talking about the use of assessments

Broc Edwards discussing the need for boldness in HR

William Tincup/Matt Stollak forcing some brainstorming with half baked HR ideas

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who sponsored, attended, or observed remotely during the event. We are humbled and appreciative of the support.

Matt, Steve, and Trish–I couldn’t ask for a better team of people to work with. I appreciate each of you greatly, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to work alongside you.

To the rest of you out there that have attended or supported the event in the past, thanks for helping us get to five years (and beyond)!

I want to admit something that might be a bit silly. A few years ago I had my first opportunity to attend the HR Technology Conference, and I didn’t take it seriously. Most of the sessions were not “typical” HR sessions and were focused on case studies of how organizations solved their problems. At the time, I just didn’t see how that was worth my time.

Fast forward a few years, and I actually work on publishing case studies as a part of my daily work. I can see the value of these tools for solving business problems. I understand why they are used at high levels to help frame issues and lay out solutions.

And this is not just about justifying what I spend my time on. :-)

When I’m talking with company leadership, teaching classes, or speaking at events, I have the opportunity to pull from some of the insightful things other organizations are doing around talent, learning, marketing, etc. I’m an “example” kind of learner, and I pick up new concepts and ideas from seeing how other organizations tackle their problems.

If you’re wondering where I’m going with this (other than to convince you, if you believe like I originally did), I’m talking about the Brandon Hall Group Excellence Conference next January. The sessions at our conference are going to be geared around how some of these award-winning companies are facing and conquering their talent problems, and personally I’m excited to see how it plays out. .

This is a high level conference for high level HR and business leaders. If you or someone you know might be a good fit for attending, be sure to use the coupon code BHConfBen to get $200 off of the standard registration. I will be leading an unconference session with Trish McFarlane in addition to the other strategic sessions we’ll be holding, so we have a great agenda already laid out.

I’d love to see some of you there! Let me know if you have questions.
brandon hall excellence conference

Some of the most fun opportunities I have include joining HR professionals like you at events around the country. I can write and speak all I want, but having the opportunity to sit next to other trench HR folks and talk about the issues they are facing is something I truly enjoy. Speaking of events…

Next month, I’m going to be joining the social media team in support of the Tennessee State SHRM Conference. The event will be held at Sevierville Convention Center September 17th-19th (more info here).

Fun fact: I was trying to find a “Huntsville” location for my video background since that’s where I am based. The first thing that came to mind was the NASA Space and Rocket Center. The Center is one of the main tourist attractions in the area and features many artifacts and other fun items from the nation’s history of space exploration.  

Not only will the social media team be covering the event from a social perspective, but we’ll also be participating in two sessions on using social for HR and recruiting. I’m really excited about the opportunity to interact with some of the great HR pros in and around Tennessee and to share with them how we can leverage new tools to improve our HR service and delivery.

If you’re going to be at the event or think you want to participate, I’d love to connect with you! Shoot me an email (ben@upstarthr.com) or comment below.

Next week I’ll be attending the SHRM Talent Management Conference in Nashville. It’s an event focusing on recruiting and talent, and I’m excited about attending and sharing some of the sessions I’ll be viewing.

If you’re going to be there and want to connect, hit me up via email and we can try to make it work.

As a preview, here are the sessions I’m planning to check out during the event.

Big Data: Your Best Bet In The War For Talent

Why: As our organization has grown it has become harder to source from some of the same pools that we’ve used repeatedly over the years. I’m hoping to learn more about using data to help find the next person I hire.

Quality of Attrition: Management’s Favorite Human Capital Metric

Why: We have a long-standing discussion at work about the difference between retention and turnover. For our purposes, retention is preventable, turnover is not. I’m hoping to learn more about attrition, what the market averages are, and how we can leverage that for better organizational metrics.

Beyond Performance Reviews: Influencing Performance Improvement

Why: Thanks to my buddy Chris Ponder, I’ve been getting more interested in the field of performance improvement lately. I’d like to look at ways we can take our paper (shudder) performance reviews to another level with more impact to the business.

Effectively Managing a Remote Workforce

Why: We have more people outside our local office and we’re adding new work sites regularly. It becomes difficult to make sure everyone feels included and engaged when they are not physically in the same workplace. I’m looking for ideas on how managers can lead those people as well as how to make sure we’re taking care of the remote staff adequately.

Strategic Talent Acquisition: The “Talent Advisor” Approach

Basically, how valuable would your leadership say your recruiting function is? Do they think it enhances the overall business by finding the right people at the right time? I think we do this pretty well, but I am always looking for ways to improve our service delivery on the recruiting side.

Well? Anything in there look interesting to you? What would you like me to share about?