I said to myself I wasn’t going to write a post about HRevolution 2010 and I’ve been resisting as much for the last three days. I figured by now it would have all been said. But it hasn’t so I can bite my tongue no longer. Let me start by getting three things about the whole event out of the way: 1) It was awesome, 2) I didn’t meet one person who wasn’t really bright, thoughtful, passionate, and fun, and 3) If you didn’t go this time, make sure you do next year. Although I am currently unemployed, my entire career has been spent providing HR leadership in a corporate environment to small and large organizations alike. I’ve often referred to HR professionals operating in that environment as #TrenchHR – professionals who are actually on the ground (and in the trenches) caring and feeding for employees every day. Many of you who read this blog are from that realm. I’ve maintained for a long time that our voice is too soft, that we need to be more aggressive in getting our perspective out there. I thought – and hoped – we would have a stronger voice at HRevolution. But sadly we heard more from consultants and vendors than we did any one. Consultants and vendors (with a few exceptions) facilitated the tracks, they raised their hands most often, they interjected their wisdom whenever they could. Now I didn’t speak up much at the conference myself. I actually set a goal for myself to just listen. I have a history of being a bit too active in these discussions and wanted this experience to be different for me. But sitting there I realized that it would have been really tough for those people to get a word in edgewise. Rarely would they have had the chance!
Now don’t get me wrong – these guys are brilliant, they are charismatic, and funny, and fun, and really are passionate about the HR profession. They make a difference in our industry and most of it is really good stuff. I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to learn from them and hope more of that will come. But for goodness sakes, just shut it for a while and listen to what others have to say. And when you talk to us, check the attitude at the door. Laurie Ruettimann (a.k.a Punk Rock HR), for example, told us in her closing remarks that one of the best things we could do to move the HR agenda forward was to “go out and get promoted.” I love Laurie and I follow her work religiously, but is she serious on this one? I’m sure she made all the HR Managers in the room feel really confident – guess what guys, your word doesn’t stand for much ’cause your title isn’t impressive enough. Talk about not moving the HR agenda forward. Jason Seiden took every opportunity he could to plug his book How to Fail Spectacularly. I’ve read the book and like it. I’ve given copies to my team and promote it whenever I have a chance. And I think Jason is one of the coolest guys out there, I’d work for him if he’d have me. But come on, man, tone it down for a little while. Jason Lauritsen lead an entire track with flip charts and venn diagrams and he talked to us like we were in elementary school. I know he didn’t mean to; he really is a smart guy and I liked what he had to say. Here’s the kicker for me, though: As he was reflecting on the HRevolution brand, he explained that when he considered going to the first conference in 2009 he didn’t think it was “for him.” Read into that what you will. He went on to tell us that his perception of the brand changed, however, “when [he] heard that Jason Seiden was getting involved [in the 2010 conference.]” Hmmmmmmmm…..
And so much of what was being prophetized by these guys was really interesting, but entirely impractical to most. Who the hell leading an HR practice out there has the resources – the people or the budget – to devote attention to this stuff? “The beauty of the unconference format [after all] is that it is designed to leave you with practical, useful knowledge because [you’re] actively engaged in the discussion from start to finish.” I guess I just pictured smaller groups of HR practitioners, more open discussion, energetic debate, and meaningful dialogue around making an impact on our people and doing so with pragmatism in mind. No, that doesn’t mean I want an SPHR certified curriculum. But I would have liked the opportunity to hear from the people who are actually living and breathing the application of HR in the field every day; and I just don’t think the environment was conducive to that. Adding sponsors and lofty visionaries takes your “unconference” to a different place. And that place looks a lot like most of the other places we’ve been.