Putting the Pieces Together: HRevolution


November 11, 2009

I’m a writer, not a journalist.

I’ve seen this statement several times from bloggers but didn’t give it much thought until now.  It’s only been three days since HRevolution wrapped and I’m feeling this pressure from everywhere to get information out about it quickly.  Many of us who were there have put out summary information or humorous posts.  A few touched on what it all meant and where we go from here.  The one common theme I’m hearing from participants and session leaders is that there were so many ideas shared that we all have this information swirling and stewing in our minds.  The next thing I hear is that we didn’t leave with a plan or steps to take.  But, isn’t that what you’d get from a traditional conference.  We didn’t plan this to be a one day, easy fix on how to revolutionize HR.

revolution-global-voicesI agree that something tangible needs to come out of HRevolution….and it will. But I have this pressing feeling that we need  to think it all through before we just throw it out there for the world.  And, since we are not merely reporters covering the story from 30,000 feet in a 60 second sound bite, we are all posting more in depth, in our own time.  We are  not only HR professionals, we are writers who care about the way we formulate and share opinions on the information we devoured.

As one of the HRevolution founders and also as a participant, I think two things need to happen:

  1. Over the next few weeks, as people have time to chew on what they heard and learned, they will begin writing more about the content in a way that challenges us to think more.  Keep your eyes open because these posts may not be called “HRevolution” but they will be speaking to specific points that were discussed.
  2. The planning committee will be reaching out to each participant with some specific questions regarding what we discussed and learned.  We will then use that information to come up with a takeaway that will be shared not only with participants but also on the HRevolution site so it is available to everyone.

Although there were many sessions at HRevolution, I saw our collective conversations bifurcate (great word I attribute to Laurie Ruettimann– thanks Laurie!) into transactional HR vs. transformational HR.  This is one thing I have been thinking about since I left Louisville.  If you look at the human resource profession as a whole, my estimation is that at least 80% of the people working in the field are fairly content.  Notice I did not  necessarily call them “happy”, but content in the role that they fill in the company they work for.  Whether they are in  a generalist or specialist role is not relevant.  They may have things that they are less than satisfied with but they will never push to change them.

Then, there are at least 10% of the people who really hate HR.  They don’t necessarily hate the company they work for, although they might, but they truly are not cut out to work in the human resource field.  The last 10% are the HR professionals who want to help make a change.  They want to lead, talk about the future, push for change that makes sense, strategize.  These people aren’t asking for a seat at the table because they are climbing on top of it.  These are the professionals who understand that it takes more than a diploma in HR to be revolutionary.  It takes a solid understanding of the business world in general and how accounting, marketing, communications, and all the other elements fit into place.  THESE are the type of people that attended HRevolution.  These are the people that will determine the future of HR.

With that said, there were several things I heard that are sticking  with me.  They are:

  • We need to be talking about stakeholders and shareholders- This idea came from John Nykolaiszyn.  He made this comment in a session and he and I also talked about it offline.  Several other people made similar arguments that it is empirical that we understand business and not just human resources.  The VP of HR is not the one making the big decisions in the company.  It’s the CEO along with heavy input from the CFO in most cases.  If you are in HR and you can’t go toe-to-toe with these people, you might as well go back to your cube and continue on as the policy and fashion police.  BUT, if you are well-versed in business and you have a solid understanding of your company and how it makes money, you can be embraced by the CEO and CFO as a thought leader and trusted advisor.  Call To Action #1: Know more than just HR.  Know about business.
  • Social media is not the answer- It’s a tool.  This idea came from hearing numerous people talk about social media.  Several said they dislike the term because “social” implies that it is not business.  I agree.  Regardless of what it is called though, it is only a tool.  It can be very powerful, just look what was accomplished through Twitter in terms of creating this un-conference out of nothing.  But, it is not the answer to what the future of HR is.  Social media is a mechanism for outreach and networking.  If used, you can expand not only your knowledge and experience, but your reach into the world.  You can share your ideas and debate with others who may disagree.  IT WILL HELP YOU LEARN.  Call To Action #2: Use social media as your Excalibur.  Not everyone will “get” it.  Use that to your advantage.
  • Sometimes you don’t have to know the ROI of something to start doing it- This was one of the more revolutionary thoughts of the day (thanks to Professor Boese and his tweet about the ROI of wearing pants).  On one hand we talked about knowing more about business and being able to equate that to terms the CEO or CFO would understand (like ROI).  On the other hand, there are some times where if the technology is new, it may be difficult to predict accurately what the ROI is.  That’s ok.  You may need to give it a try, then use your sales or communication skills to “sell” it to the c-suite.  The point is, don’t be afraid of change and risk.  How can you ever succeed (or fail spectacularly) if you don’t take the chance? Call To Action #3: Don’t let fear of something new scare you away.  Embrace your fear sometimes.
  • Let us never lose track that HR is a noble profession.  Act like it every day. This quote came from Eric Winegardner of Monster.com (one of our AWESOME sponsors of HRevolution).  For all the time we can spend being introspective and repining about HR’s lot in life- stop it!  Be part of the solution or get out of HR.  What we do in human resources is noble.  It is about a lot of things but at the end of the day it is about people.  Helping them develop and perform successfully so the company will succeed.  Be proud to be in HR! Call To Action #4: Remind yourself every day why you do what you do.  Give yourself permission to be proud even if there is still more to be done.  Celebrate your small victories.

I left HRevolution and drove home alone.  I spent the first hour without the radio on, which is highly unusual for me.  Why?  Because I left feeling unsettled, like it wasn’t over.  There is more and there has to be because we did not come away with a true call to action or purpose to fulfill.

We MUST keep this going in order to come away with something solid, meaningful, and that will give us all a direction.  It will be up to each individual to pick up that flag- the flag of HRevolution- and carry it proudly.  Viva la revolution!


  • Trish-OUTSTANDING follow-up post that made me even more thankful that I took the opportunity to attend HRevolution. Again, “thanks” to you and the team for pouring your energies into this.

    One topic of the ensuing dialogue that I’d like to share my thoughts on is the 90/10/10 discussion. First, I agree with your estimations and general descriptions. Further, I’d agree that the 10% of haters aren’t salvageable.

    If I consider the 10% that “wants to help make a change” and are “climbing on top” of the table rather than waiting for a seat: I agree that this 10% are adept at understanding the business, early adopters of the tools at hand, able to “sell” the conceptual side of HR value (which is considerable), and are absolutely committed to their profession. You’ve done a great job of defining key differentiators within our profession!

    Rather than write off the 80% of “content” HR professionals, I’d prefer to recruit converts from the pool. The recruiter in me says that if you want to increase your numbers, you go to a target-rich environment. The tactician in me says that no army will win a war or even a battle with 10% troop strength.

    Example: I share at least five relevant pieces of content per week, derived from my use of “social media” tools, with member of the HR leadership team. Chief People Officer, VP of HR, and members of our team all receive content (seeds of thought/action), and I always let them know where I found it. Example: I follow Sue Meisinger, past President of SHRM. Couple of weeks ago she tweets a great article written by Cappelli about the difficulties in finding qualified workers. I send it to leadership team (with origin noted) and get comments back from all. Commence the dialogue. This week, a piece by John Sullivan posted on ERE went from me to CPO to CFO. Continue the dialogue.

    I don’t agree with leaving 80% of the troops behind. I want to become better at learning how to take the next steps, AND at transferring that knowledge to others willing to wage the war.

  • Trish, everyone,

    I was talking to Scott McArthur last night, and we both thought it would be great to do something like this in the UK.

    Perhaps the next stage is to do something virtually to include other HR bloggers from all around the world?

    All the best, Jon.

  • The number one revolution for HR is your first bullet! Enough HR degrees…we (HR) need business degrees AND HR degrees. We should be working in other areas of the business as well as HR. We need to learn how to speak the business language with our specific expertise (in this case around the talent of the business)…that is what a CFO does! Instead we often go deep into the HR speak of “can/can’t”, rules, company picnic, HR processes and no surprise we quickly seen as the HR administrators.

    I propose that we spend time (via a blog?) asking and answering the hard question (and we may have imperfect answers but lets get the conversation going) of how we (HR) are driving profit at our businesses…

    • To all who commented about ‘Putting the Pieces Together- HRevolution’, I say thank you. Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing your views. While there are many different opinions of what HRevolution was, could have been, or even should have been, it all comes down to what each individual’s purpose was for coming. This was not envisioned as a traditional conference. Quite the opposite. Many companies are not paying for HR employees to attend conferences during this downturn in the economy.
      HRevolution was a way to bring HR people together to discuss current trends in HR, talk about tying HR to the “business”, learn about blogging, and most importantly, to build relationships with other HR professionals so we can draw from a larger network of people. The entire un-conference was created by the participants- everything that happened did so because it was suggested by them from the location to the topics. The thing I learned is that the un-conference model does not work for everyone, and that is ok. It works for me. It was a great experience and I hope to attend more un-conferences in the future.
      As for the Twitter stream, I think my fellow attendees said it best. We were all so involved in the discussions there was no time to tweet. Maybe the takeaway for the next one is to have a “designated tweeter”, so chalk that up to a lesson learned. Overall, a very positive experience.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.



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