Paul Hebert’s “Zen and the Art of Human Maintenance” Mural

6 Dec

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Themes You May Have Missed

3 Dec

I’m not a big name speaker or a local legend. I’m the girl running around with the video camera, iPhone, regular camera and notepad. I’m the one who heard all the material and has spent hours analyzing the videos. I don’t get inspired during a conference like the attendees, nor am I  administrating or teaching like the speakers. In one of the sessions, William Tincup divided the group into three smaller groups and shot potential HR problems at them. As each group answered from their “perspective” a well-rounded view of the situation was formed. It’s my hope that through posts from the speakers, video overviews, the stunning graphics and analysis from attendees, we’ll continue to gain value from the day we spent at Hot Shops, learning and discussing our craft. So here’s what you may or may not have noticed. —Maren

remember how inspired you were?

Jason Lauritsen started the day with a very lofty long-term goal. To transform the way HR Professionals are viewed. In essence, to BE the solution. Easy to say, and often repeated at HR Conferences but difficult to do. What’s the first step? Staying connected.

“Being the HR leaders sucks the most some days,” said Lauritsen. So how can we change this? “Give each other energy and hold each other accountable.” His goal, it seemed was to take the HR Reinvention beyond the one-day idea spike to a long-term shift that would impact the business goals of major HR leaders in Lincoln and Omaha. To this end, we were encouraged to take our chairs with us, break out of our company silos and take our individual voices to every session.

“This is the place to say the things you can’t say in your office most of the time,” said Lauritsen. Apt advice, since unlike many conferences, many of the “chair carriers” were not consultants but frontline HR leaders within their companies. Many leaped at the chance to interact, participate and focus on the day’s key themes:

Accountability: Nearly every presenter harped on the issue of accountability. Whether it was China Gorman telling us that the economy and lack of knowledge was “no excuse for doing what you know is right for your business” or Kim Hoogeveen saying, “Leadership is not that different from integrity. It’s not that hard to know what to do, it’s doing it every day.” Track leaders called attendees to action, not only in their executives offices but in mid-level management and generalist positions. Here’s the idea in a nutshell. If the buck stops here, be the HERE. Educate yourself, read periodicals, update your knowledge of legislation, find out what’s going on above, below and alongside you. Then use that gleaned info to effect change.

Innovation: “This ain’t your momma’s HR!” was how Chris Bryant explained it. And he wasn’t the only one. While there is a long way to go (and we’re not the only industry) HR is at a fundamental crossroads, which means that HR Pros are also “surfing on chaos” as Roger Fransecky put it. There was a clear challenge from track leaders to get out of the old line manager thinking and focus on innovative ideas to make your company greater. Ideas like Zappo’s 3K to Walk Away and Ritz Carlton’s Empowering the Employee Campaign were discussed. Innovation seemed to start at the individual employee level and work it’s way up in the examples used. As Bryant said “See the need. Do the deed.”

Risk: Diversity’s a touchy subject but not one that Joe Gerstandt is unfamiliar with. In fact, he turned risk on its head but asking “Nobody’s asking what’s the business case for the CEO’s big-ass office? So why do people ask the business case for diversity?” and focused on problems that are easy to solve when you challenge commonly held assumptions. Meanwhile, down the hall, William Tincup was blowing minds and stretching comfort levels with his social media scenarios. Shady video uploaded to YouTube, payroll data gets leaked, Facebook pictures used in a CFO’s day in court….Tincup effectively helped participants deal with these issues (from multiple standpoints) and insisted on embracing social media as an organization and turning “sticky situations” into leadership moments. Paul Hebert took it a step further and explained that if HR was not willing to go on the offensive and take risks, they would find themselves “forever playing defense”.

People: The day started and ended with people. China Gorman explained that “Business is at a crossroads, and it’s about PEOPLE” at the opening keynote and Jason Seiden finished the day by explaining how we needed to move from tactical to social to finally a political role to fully embrace the executive level. While some were squirming in their seats, it’s an important distinction, if human resources is not, after all about HUMANS, what in the heck are we doing? The most organic forms don’t always look like corporate structure, pointed out Seiden “Show me anything in nature that looks like a flowchart,” he quipped. Greg Harris, showed that interestingly, Collective Employee Engagement could provide predictive forecasting but when we dig deeper we find that on an individual level, employees are not engaged and do not feel valued. On what level would YOUR people answer this statement?

“I understand how my job helps the organization achieve success”

Do you remember some of the goals that were discussed before leaving?

-Read more blogs

-Get connected with one another

-Talk with folks outside your normal function/vertical

-“book-end” conversations

-Put yourself in the “flow of information”

Have you done any of these? A great way to start is by click on just one of the links in the blog post above. You’ll find ways to connect with speakers, read other great HR blogs and see what other workforce pros are working on. Or you can sign up at the right of this blog to receive these updates via email. Easy right?

William Tincup’s “Social Media + Ethical Dilemmas = Today 2.0” Mural

1 Dec

China Gorman’s “HR Wake Up Call” Mural

30 Nov

To bring the HR Reinvention Experiment to life and capture the experience so that it could be shared with others who could not attend, we employed the artistic genius of a Sophia Liang, graphic recorder.  She created a series of engaging murals from seven of the sessions that took place during the event.  Look for these murals here over the next two weeks.

Here is the art created from China Gorman‘s opening keynote: HR Wake Up Call.



HR Reinvention Video

22 Nov

A full day of “turn it on its head” HR thinking compressed into 8 minutes. See clips from speakers including China Gorman, William Tincup, Paul Hebert and Jason Seiden.

Full speakers list here

Paul Hebert on Resisting the Monkey Trap

2 Nov

Whenever I talk to a group I always have something hidden away in my mind as the “one” thing.  I call it my Neo Thought.  Like Neo from the Matrix movies – it is the ONE.

The one idea I want everyone to walk away with in the back of their minds.  If I can do that – I’m happy.

I recognize the audience has a lot on their minds and a lot of ground to cover when they are at any conference – and more so at conferences like HR Reinvention where there are such great topics and track leaders.  So one idea per session is probably a reasonable goal.

So what was my Neo Thought?

The Monkey Trap

For those that couldn’t be in the session, the Monkey Trap references a way to capture a monkey.  Some say it is Burmese.  Some say South African.  I’m not sure it matters.

Here is the quote from the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that inspired my track topic.

“I can think of is the old South Indian Monkey Trap, which depends on value rigidity for its effectiveness. The trap consists of a hollowed-out coconut chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole. The hole is big enough so that the monkey’s hand can go in, but too small for his fist with rice in it to come out. The monkey reaches in and is suddenly trapped—by nothing more than his own value rigidity. He can’t revalue the rice. He cannot see that freedom without rice is more valuable than capture with it.”

Whether this is a true story or not, it is a great visual and the one thing I wanted everyone to take away from my session.  And luckily for me – it was something I heard more than one person comment on later in the day.

And that little piece – if kept in the front of your mind – can have a huge impact on the work you do in the future.

Drop The Rice

My comment to the group as we started the session was – drop the rice.

Don’t allow your past beliefs to cloud your possible future.  If you can drop the rice you can start to evaluate potential futures more clearly.  For HR this may mean giving up something you see as valuable today in order to gain something of greater value in the future.

So I remind those that attended – and those that are reading now because someone who attended pointed you to the site…

As you evaluate what you will do in the future think about the monkey in the coconut.  Are you holding onto functions and ideas that may seem valuable but are actually holding you back?

Your call.  But remember what happens to the monkey that won’t let go of the rice.

China Gorman on Urgency vs. the status quo

1 Nov

I’m noticing that something powerful is going on within the HR space.   It’s organic.  It’s energetic.  It feels urgent.  It’s about getting HR people more intimately connected with each other.  It’s about gaining confidence and strength through closer relationships.  And it might be turning the conference world on its ear.

HR conferences organized by groups likes SHRM (including SHRM global and its 52 state councils), ASTD, WorldatWork, ERE, LRP and others have done a very strong job of creating traditional conference experiences that provide content, continuing education credits, vendor showcases and limited networking experiences. 

But well-executed as they are, well-attended as many of them are, and well-marketed as they are, they don’t provide something that seems to be getting more and more valuable to a certain subset of HR leaders:  the opportunity to have intimate discussions with thought leaders.  And there’s a growing sense of immediacey about what’s missing.  So what’s my evidence?

Well, first there is HRevolution.  An early entrant in the HR “un-conference” space, two HRevolutions have been held and the third is in the planning stages.  Organized by Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, Steve Boese and others, this grass roots gathering gets HR folks together to wrestle with each other on topics relating to the relevance of HR.  Facilitators lead discussions rather than speakers giving presentations.  It’s been given high marks for engaging its attendees, but questions of “what’s next?” persist.

The “Tru” un-conferences in Europe appear to be similar to HRevolution in that they have sprung from concerned and committed individuals in the HR space rather than from organizations in the HR space.  I’ll know more after attending the TruLondon conference in February.

RecruitFest! organized by RecruitingBlogs.com also joined the “un-conference” space, but mixed it up in 2010 with a different approach.  Instead of discussion groups, thought-leaders held conversations for the viewing audience (75 in studio; almost 4,000 through the live stream) to listen and watch.  It got the thought leader discussion piece right with some engagement of attendees and it also got high marks.  But again, “what do I do now?” questions followed.

The HRevolution, TruEvents and RecruitFest! unconferences are broad in their reach.  They engage interested professionals from all over the world to attend either in person or virtually. 

Now here’s a new twist:  the HR Reinvention Experiment held last Thursday for senior HR leaders in the state of Nebraska.  Jason Lauritsen, a senior HR executive in Lincoln asked himself “what’s next?” after attending the last HRevolution.  He assembled a small group of like minded business leaders in the HR space in Omaha and Lincoln and they gathered nearly 70 senior leaders from across Nebraska to talk with each other and begin to address challenges in Nebraska that need HR’s leadership.  And with the support of several local sponsor organizations, the HR Reinvention Experiment began to take shape.

A combination of traditional and un-conference organizing approaches, the HR Reinvention Experiment included tailored keynote presentations (me and Jason Seiden), small group discussions led by true thought leaders (Paul Hebert, Joe Gerstandt, William Tincup and Roger Fransecky) and a couple of traditional “concurrent session” topics (Chris Bryant and Greg Harris).  Limited to 75 attendees from a specific geographic area, HRRE was a day full of challenging content, discussion and engagement, all with a local focus.   

To further underscore its difference from traditional conference approaches, HRRE was held in the open spaces of the Hot Shops Art Center, an art center (and former mattress factory) consisting of working art studios, showrooms and gallery spaces.  Attendees, surrounded by the creative process, carried their folding chairs from space to space throughout the day so that gathering spots magically opened up in places like pottery and glass blowing studios as well as galleries.

Instead of PowerPoints and handouts, the HRRE organizing team hired the graphic genius of Sophia Liang (Graphic Footprints) to make a graphic recording of the keynote sessions, as well as several of the discussion sessions.  This is the recording of the lunch keynote, “The CEO Perspective of HR,” a discussion between two CEOs: Roger Fransecky and Kim HoogeveenThe additional recordings will be shared on the HRRE website soon.

It was a full day to say the least.  I participated as the opening keynoter giving the attendees an “HR Wake-Up Call” as well as attending as a participant for the full day’s activities.  The experience was challenging, fun, engaging and thought-provoking.  It brought together many of Nebraska’s HR leaders for a day of thoughtful and personal engagement and pushed them to ask new questions and assume different outcomes.

But while the “what’s next?” question persists, I have a feeling that there will indeed be a “next” in Nebraska.  These business leaders seem ready to take action.  HRRE felt like a catalyst that will start to move the discussions into action.  Time will tell, of course, but the framework exists to launch a new kind of self-driven professional community. 

Professional organizations catering to HR leaders should be taking note of the grass roots efforts to connect in new and more impactful ways.  Whether it’s learning and conferences or advocacy and membership, there are unmet needs that are becoming urgent in the HR world.  The frequency and level of innovation happening in this space suggests that the current infrastructure is becoming less relevant to a portion of the population.  And this portion of the HR population has the commitment, skills and intellectual curiosity to do something about it.  We should all stay tuned….