In all of my lengthy professional life, I had never been to a conference. I had been to plenty of trade shows and training seminars, but a conference – where people actually talked to each other and exchanged ideas – was outside of my experience. Now that I am unemployed, why am I preparing to sign up for two very expensive HR conferences, spending a fortune in travel, lodging, and meals on top of the registration costs, and considering several more?
Jim Mitchem, whose Twitter name is @smashadv, said it best: The best part of Twitter is the humility that comes with realizing that you’re *never* the smartest person in the room.
When I got really involved in Twitter late last summer, I learned that there was a whole group of highly intelligent HR and recruiting pros online that were willing to share their knowledge and insights. When some of those pros hosted an “unconference” called HRevolution, with the idea that the exchange and engagement from Twitter would come alive, I knew I had to go.
HRevolution was electrifying for me. It was a non-stop exchange of ideas about a profession amongst highly intelligent practitioners, and I was instantly addicted. Now I crave more, because
That quote, from Monster.com‘s Eric Weingardner (@ewmonster on Twitter), says it all for me. I’m going to start out with the Employment Law & Legislative Update given by SHRM, then attend HRevolution in May. I’m taking advantage of early registration for SHRM 2010, their June annual conference. I’m sure there will be more along the way, and I am happy to take suggestions.
How about you? Want to plug your HR Conference or talk about your conference plans?
The last session of the HRevolution un-conference, introduced in my previous blog, was called “The Future of HR”. It was facilitated by the incomparable Mark Stelzner, whose admitted purpose was “to be provocative and shake the room up a bit.” His mission was well accomplished, and the passionate discussion was described by @KristaFrancis on Twitter: Great minds *don’t* think alike and that’s a good thing. Mark summed up the discussion on his blog, but I want to focus on this particular statement:
There was a great discussion on how people need to quit their HR jobs if they are that miserable. In other words, stop complaining and lamenting your non-strategic role and instead find a company that values your contribution.
That “call to action” has been repeated since on blogs (here ), and the HR Happy Hour blog talk radio show.
Why does it pain me to hear and read that people who want to make a difference should just quit their jobs and go elsewhere? Because it’s a strategy that’s far too over-simplified, and the consequences of failure are too dangerous for that simplification. I speak from personal experience.
My Personal History
I come from a small (less than 50 employees) food processing/manufacturing plant. My husband and his partner own the business. When I began working there, no one knew exactly what my role was going to be. I fell into an HR function almost immediately, because there was NO HR function there at all. I started learning, and I made myself a HR Manager/Generalist. I had a seat at that strategic table, usually at the head. I made those P&Ls sing.
So why did I leave in June 2008? Because I had a nagging feeling that there was more evolving to be done, and I couldn’t do it where I was. There is only so far you can go in a really small company before some of the work becomes redundant, and some becomes impossible. So I quit (read: no unemployment benefits) and went looking for a company that would “value my contributions”.
It’s now November 2009 and I have yet to find that company. Telling a recruiter or a hiring manager that I left my job because “I needed new challenges” makes them hang up on me. Layoffs and downsizings create sympathy, self-indulgence does not.
I’m lucky – my husband still owns the company and has a job, so I still have sufficient funds to go to un-conferences and listen to people tell me to do what I’ve already done. But suppose I was a sole breadwinner with kids to support and a mortgage to meet? That strategy would have placed a lot of other people in jeopardy. Is Laurie Ruettiman’s philosophy is the better one? She says, ” You get a paycheck. Be happy.”
By sharing that with you, I want to emphasize a point that was touched on at HRevolution but not sufficiently embraced: the enlightened HR group that we are a part of is a very tiny minority of the entire HR population. The solutions and suggestions we propose inside of our “HR echo chamber” will not be embraced by them and will often be actively resisted. We need to help others examine themselves and their roles to see how they can evolve and revolutionize, even if circumstances and paychecks keep them in their positions. A large majority of HR pros don’t even know that people and technology exist to help them make this journey. In other words, they don’t read ourblogs. Until a very short time ago, I was one of those people.
When Alicia Arenas asked us in a video to leave HRevolution with a commitment to spread the message, she mentioned college students and local SHRM chapters as examples of avenues to spread our enlightenment. Let’s collectively think of more, and start an outreach program, because we will not succeed without converting others. With that in mind, I am picking up the flag of HRevolution and making this commitment:
I will use social media, personal connections, and any other soapbox that is available to me to encourage, aid, and advise HR Pros and other business professionals to embark on a course of personal development that will expand their knowledge and engage and enlighten others.
By doing this, I hope to move past the idea that HR people should just be happy to get a paycheck. The people I will try to reach may not be able to leave their companies, but they may be able to avoid doing everything “The Company Way.” Viva la revolution!
I attended a strange and amazing “unconference” two days ago. It was called HRevolution and it was a collection of HR and recruiting pros coming together to discuss social media and its intersection with their professional life. It was the first out-of-town HR conference I had ever attended, made up mainly of bloggers (including Twitter micro-bloggers). The ideas flew fast and furiously, and I already have several HR University lesson plans in the works based on thoughts generated at the Revolution. Those lessons will have to be spread out over several posts, but I want to start here with some introductory remarks about the Revolution in general:
One of the attendees at HRevolution, Frank Zupan, lives and work in Cleveland. He eats corned beef at a deli called Slyman’s; they buy corned beef made at United Meat & Deli (UMD) in Detroit. The corned beef is injected/pumped with pickling brine with a machine operated by Joaquin Arredondo. Joaquin is a permanent resident alien (has a green card) – a status that I helped him obtain as the HR manager at UMD. That circle (Frank to Joaquin to me to Frank) of connectivity wasn’t created by HRevolution or Twitter, but it was discovered there. It makes a compelling argument for the continuing exploration of social media, and it slaps the argument that “people only connect on social media because they can’t connect in person” right in the face.
Laurie Ruettiman of Punk Rock HR is a true superstar of the HR blogosphere. Ooohs and aaahs were audible when she arrived, and I am old enough to be her mother. In fact, I discovered through conversation with her that I am older than her mother. But she, like the other Gen X and Ys present (which was most of the room), was absolutely energizing. Boomers like me can learn a lot from these smart kids, if we will listen.
None of the attendees at HRevolution had met me before; they only knew who I was because of my Twitter presence. Yet almost everyone who knew who I was (because of my avatar) hugged me. It was marvelous because I really like hugging.
HRevolution attendees have an absolute fascination with bacon. I have no idea what the origin of this fascination is, or why it continues. I am happy to indulge the fascination, though. The first HRevolution attendee who comments (10 words or more required) on this blog post will receive the book “Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon” as a gift from me.