Less HR In HRevolution?

At the end of the recently concluded HRevolution conference unconference  event, Steve Boese asked the audience for their thoughts and insights. Two different people made comments that essentially said that they wished there had been less HR content. One person asked for other disciplines (such as marketing) to be represented, and one asked for more tech-related content.

Those comments peeved me a little bit, perhaps because these comments came not long after I read this tweet from an attendee:






The thing that bothered me the most about this tweet is the assertion that the term “engage” is somehow an HR word that no one else uses.  Apparently the tweeter has never read The Unmarketing Blog (“Stop Marketing. Start Engaging”), or the Brian Solis book Engage!, or heard of the digital technology event “Engage!”

The verb engage has several different definitions, but HR pros, marketers, and others use to word to mean an emotional, interactive experience between people. Thesaurus.com lists the terms “involve” and “engross” as synonyms for this particular meaning, but nowhere does thesaurus.com list the word “participate” as a synonym for engage.

This is obviously because HR pros know that there is a vast difference between an employee who “participates” and one who is “engaged”.  While I understand that buzzwords (or buzz-phrases, like “seat at the table”) are overused, and have myself written against using jargon, sometimes the reason a particular word achieves buzzword status is because it is the only word that definitionally fits the situation.

She may be right about people/talent,  although it seems to me that both are used pretty frequently by HR pros, making “talent” less of a buzzword and more an alternative.

Right after I left HRevolution I attended a workshop in Phoenix, where I spoke on using social media to communicate employee benefits. The terms SPD, SBC, wellness, and compliance were thrown around the room with aplomb. No one complained that the people in the workshop should use words that people outside of HR (or benefits administration) do. No one tweeted that attendees should say, “can’t understand this paper, not  SPD”, or “don’t  get sued, not compliance”.

If you don’t want to hear about HR at an HR event, perhaps a marketing, finance, or technology event will better fit your needs. You may hear some buzzwords, though.



8 thoughts on “Less HR In HRevolution?”

  1. Every industry has its own jargon and HR often gets a bad wrap for using it. Try listening to a group of accountants or quality experts some time! Every presenter should try to “de-jargonize” the presentation as much as possible, just for clarity of understanding but, depending on your audience if you do so too much you get accused of “dumbing down.”

  2. Joan I wonder if this is an undercurrent simply illustrating how fractured the HR function is? I personally feel it is the catch-all department. Legal, safety, compliance, benefits… blah blah. When I hear someone saying they want more marketing or tech content it is because their HR function has a component of tech and marketing. And not surprising there would be that slant with this particular HRevolution crowd as it bumped against the HR Tech conference. The “multi-dicipline” of HRevolution is something I adore. With this group HRev has been grounded by social media which by nature is tech and marketing. But, you are right that you cannot leave behind the HR function. Personally I want more analysis of how tech and marketing impact employees and how HR can guide that analysis and implementation to bring success to organizations. Maybe attendees are looking for connections outside of HR that impact HR? HRevolution should give it to them.

  3. As I mentioned, Mike, I wrote about using too much HR jargon, but that post went against people who used so many buzzwords and inside phrases in one sentence that the meaning was totally incomprehensible. So I definitely think it can be toned down.

    In this case, I was more concerned about the particular slam of individual words like engage and talent. I like some words because they are precise and, despite the tweet in question, highly understandable.

    HR does get a bad rap, and sometimes it’s deserved. Not this time, imho. Thanks for pointing that out.

  4. Lyn, I think that the fact that it was part of HR Tech definitely drove some of these comments.

    I don’t have any problem with a multi-disciplined approach. In fact, my own SHRM local is having a workshop later this month on “Budgeting for HR”. But if there is not an HR slant or HR focus – it seems pretty pointless. As I said – a good practitioner can meet these topics where they live an go to a conference focused on those topics.

    I don’t agree with calling folks out for using words like engage or talent in their own space. Blending disciplines is great , but slamming people in their own space is kind of tacky.

  5. CARLIN! I can still recite the “seven words you can never say on TV’, event though I first heard him do that bit in 1972 or so.

    Great video, Mike, and great blog piece; thanks for sharing.

  6. how interesting- having attended as a non-practitioner- it never occurred to me that the content was too one-way or the other-, what I enjoyed most was the interaction about real-world topics and the takeaways I could apply as a manager of people- and use the takeaways for how to better work with HR- so no matter what your perspective, you need to “get” what the meeting is for to appreciate it most- I suppose-

  7. The two people that commented didn’t necessarily imply that it was “too HR”, Debbie – only that they would have liked other disciplines added. As Lyn stated, that would be great, and I would lend whole-hearted support to an effort that blended HR with other disciplines.

    That tweet implied a bit more to me, though, like we were some kind of elitist group with our own special language. Since she was a first-timer, I think she didn’t get hugged enough. 😉

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