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!


  • Hey Trish – You know how I feel about a lot of this already from our discussion but here are my gut reactions to your post (and our phone call)

    1. I am miserable that I didn’t get there this year.
    2. I am blessed to have colleagues who can bring the event to life with their words and thoughts
    3. I agree 1000 1,000,000% that the conversation needs to continue. Big question: how?

    I have one or two thoughts: post forthcoming!

  • Trish – excellent post. This was, as you said, an event filled with so many ideas that it was hard to digest and assess them all quickly. I think your four calls to action are a great launching point to try and apply some of what we learned at HRevolution, and frankly what we already knew to be the right thing before HRevolution.

  • Excellent post Trish! My drive home alone gave me some time to think as well. Your action points are spot on, especially number 3. Viva la Revolution!

  • Wow, great post Trish! I feel this “take that hill!” attitude after reading it. Can’t wait to continue the conversation and start living some of these concepts. Well done. 🙂

  • Thank you for this post Trish! And thank you for your part of the hard work it took to get HRevolution put together.

    I love that you have a call to action, not just for the people who participated but for those of us who could not attend. I especially like your call to action #1 – Know more than HR. Know business. It is a personal challenge to us. It is also a challenge to HR leaders around the country. Yes – learn and know HR. But don’t stick your head in the sand of business.

    I’m looking forward to reading more posts!

  • We are so lucky to have you Trish! Your post resonated with me and I’m one of the ones that unfortunately could not attend the event. I agree this is not something that can happen overnight. The key is harnessing all the creative, forward-thinking energy of those that care enough to want to effect change and make thoughtful decisions on what that may take. I can’t wait to read more from you and others about the conference but I will because I understand the benefit of both time and deep consideration/thought. Again, wonderful post–I love your blog, you are a gifted WRITER.

  • Trish,

    Thanks for the summary and I really wish I had been able to make it. I do want to raise a small issue with your distinction between “writers” and “journalists” though. You imply (most likely unintentionally) that journalists simply report facts while writers craft great content.

    I would like to put forward the idea that while journalists certainly do report facts, the best ones also provide context. It’s not about the facts – it’s about what they mean. I don’t mean that in the sense that they editorialize, but rather that great journalists explain the context.

    Are bloggers journalists in the strictest sense? No. But I don’t think the line is as clear-cut as we make it out to be.



  • Great post. I am going to throw something out here that is the topic of something I am working on:

    Everything we know now has been right in front of our eyes the entire time.

    We all know that businesses that are on the bleeding edge innovation struggle with adoption and market penetration. If you want to be innovative in the business environment, it is going to be extremely frustrating. 90% (or whatever that number is) of businesses are satisfied by following and not being innovative at all.

    So if we know this, why would being on the bleeding edge of HR be any different? 90% of people won’t be there? Big deal.

    I’ve stopped worrying about the other 90%. They’ll come along. And that was a bit of my frustration with the first and last parts of HRevolution. We spent an awful amount of time talking about these people. They won’t determine our success or failure so let’s move past them.

    Going forward, I want to talk about how we help the 10% more. We know there are companies that are already doing it or are looking for guidance on how to do that. Let’s strategize, equip and move them out.

    Thanks Trish!

    • @Mike- Thanks for your comment. You know we all understood that something unavoidable at work came up, but we were definitely missing a piece of the collective “us” without you there. I am looking forward to your posts. As for HRevolution and Mike V, there’s always next year.

      @Steve and @Lance- I think I’ll reply to you both together because your comments both touched one something that people may miss. To paraphrase, our answer may have always been right there before our eyes. Makes me think of the Wizzard of Oz and while it takes Dorothy a very long time to wind around to find her way home, if she had just looked inside herself she would have known how to get home. Maybe we’re like that- We’re all looking for this perfect land of HR (our Oz) and if we just consider what we already know, would we have the answer? Interesting question. I also like Lance’s idea about only focusing on the 10%. In the post I mention that in my estimation, only 10% of HR professionals even want to do what is necessary to move the conversation forward, so let’s focus there. No different in companies that try to ensure they keep the top 10% of performers. Thanks to you both for commenting. You guys always make me think- it’s a beautiful thing.

      @April- Thanks so much. I also think we must have similar driving habits. Singing all the way to Louisville, then pondering all the way home.

      @Mark- Take the hill Mark! I’ll be right beside you.

      @Alicia- Thank you. As a former HR pro and now a business owner, I think our community can learn a great deal from you because you’ve been on both sides. Looking forward to your posts as well on this issue.

      @Traci- You are so sweet! Thank you. I will be excited to hear how those who couldn’t make it to HRevolution join in on the topics now and help bring out points that those in Louisville didn’t even think about. Keep challenging us.

      @Chris- Thanks for commenting. You’re correct that I didn’t mean to imply that journalists don’t craft great content. What I was trying to say though is that reporters are there to report facts- what happened, what was covered, who was there, who said what, who sang on stage….oh, I digress. Seriously, for me, writers get the opportunity to share not only the facts, but insert our opinion. That is what makes the difference for me. So, bloggers can be “reporters” if all their doing is stating the facts. Once opinions are inserted, it’s writing. I agree it is a blurry line. So glad you asked that.

    • @Jason- Thank you for the comment. I’d love to have KI involvement. Will definitely keep you in the loop. Thanks again.

  • Trish-

    I think I’m becoming a curmudgeon so apologies to you and all in attendance at HReveolution in advance for my rant. First, as I individually communicated to Ben and Steve, you guys should be very proud of pulling off the event. Events take alot of work, risk and uncertainty. For you guys to pull it off and have money left over for a charitable contribution is simply amazing!

    What was disappointing to me as a guy sitting on the sideline in CT watching the twitterstream is that it lacked meaningful content (the twitterstream not the event itself!). I’m not sure about anyone else, but Twitter, and social media for that matter, is about sharing and gaining knowledge.
    As I look back at #hrevolution on Twitter, the discussion was overrun with chatter about drinking, ass-slapping and back-patting. Trust me, I like to have fun like the next guy, but that public noise does a tremendous dis-service to the real discussion at the event, the hard-work put in by the event coordinators, and, most importantly, those that are making real change in HR!

    Thanks for allowing me to comment.
    Jason, the curmudgeon

  • When you’re ready to plan the 2nd edition, I’d love to contribute to that discussion. I know a little about revolution, well let’s just say “taking it to the streets,” and that’s what may be needed to move the HR profession to where it needs to be for the good of our organizations and of the global economy.

  • OMG get out of my head, Jason. I have no doubt that very good discourse happened at the event and I’d love to learn more and become involved myself…but I fear that the twitterstream that I followed pretty closely made it sound like a weekend-long high school reunion. Who is sitting in front of who and who had a wee bit too much bubbly hurts the credibility of the good work that no doubt transpired.

    I think we’re all learning about how to use all of the social networking tools that are now part of our stock and trade — but it is important to hear how those not involved perceived things. Thanks Jason for being the first to say so.

  • @Jason One comment made by an attendee was that the twitterstream was pretty darn quiet during the sessions. Why? Because people were actively participating and didn’t have time to let everyone know word-for-word what was going on. I jokingly pointed out that if you had attended, then the Twitter middleman wouldn’t be necessary. I mean it even more now. You can get some little sound bytes and snippets via Twitter, but the truly amazing conversations and discussions are more complex than 140 characters.

    Good comment, amigo.

  • @Jason I can understand that in watching the twitter stream it may have “lacked content” but I can tell you as an attendee, I was heavily involved in the conversations taking place (much to some co-attendee’s chagrin, I’m certain), and honestly, I was not looking at my tweetstream because I was present in the moment.

    I have not commented much on #HRevolution, and haven’t posted on my blog at all in regard to it, because I am still digesting exactly what I’m taking away from the event, and mapping out what actions I think are next. There were so many interesting conversations crammed into 48 hours, it was unbelievable (even at 2am, thanks to my roomies!)

    So, it might not have been a “socialmedia” event (in that we were tweeting these amazing comments). But it was definitely an event. And my takeaways were tangible.

  • Ben…just so you know, I actually didn’t think the twittersteam was quiet. It was just filled with “noise” (as Lisa describes).

    I find many conferences/events have useful twitter conversations. I look back to the shootout at the HR Technology Conference as an easy example. I want the Twitter “middleman” to be necessary because unfortunately I, like many others, can’t attend every single conference or event.

    Your perspective, though, is very valuable.

  • Very interesting points about how twitter is expected to be a useful way of participating in an event without actually being there. Again, being a newbie it didn’t immediately occur to me that I would be doing you all a service by posting meaningful tweets throughout, but it should have. Perhaps the element of showing the twitterstream made it more susceptible to being used as a way to insert humor into the meaningful dialogue that was taking place realtime. Again, we were not passively watching a presentation or shootout – we were engaged in conversation. I think I would have found it difficult to speak intelligently and tweet intelligently at the same time. I can multi-task, but I’m not that good yet.

  • This is a very interesting twist to the discussion, from thinking about what the session leaders shared, and the presenters took away from the event, to the perceptions of the people that were not able to attend, but were interested in the event and wanted to ‘follow’ via social networks.

    In the last year or so, the ability to follow, and indirectly participate in events has grown enormously. In more traditional events, where an expert delivers a presentation or makes a speech to a largely passive audience, this extra element of live-blogging or live-tweeting does indeed add to the overall experience for both attendees and those who cannot attend. In our own community, Jennifer McClure comes to mind as being one of the best at this.

    At HRevolution there was a much less formal, relaxed, and interactive environment. There was little to no, ‘big ideas’ carefully presented up on a slide, or sound bite sized pronouncements from session leaders. In more formal events, these nuggets of wisdom can be blogged, tweeted, re-tweeted, etc. But during the (at times heated) conversations at HRevolution there was certainly less ‘reporting’ back of what was actually transpiring in ‘real-time’.

    But that takes us to an important point, what is the obligation (if any) of the organizers and attendees to provide a rich and informative experience during the event to those people not in attendance? During my session I probably talked about half a dozen different technologies, it would have been helpful to have an ‘official’ tweeter sending out those links and adding some observations to them. So perhaps a take-away from all this, is not only should events embrace live-blogging and live-tweeting, they should take more active steps to ensure that people not in attendance can also share in the experience.

    One of the ideas we have for the next time is live video streaming of the sessions to effectively cut out the filters. At any rate, everyone will have a different experience and perception, and I think that the best way to really assess the event is the numerous posts that have been written subsequent to the event, and look less at the Twitter stream.

  • Lance, I think your comments are right on. Focusing on the things or areas we cannot influence leads only to frustration and wasted time. (That’s why I don’t take just anyone on as a client.) If we focus our efforts and energy in the areas we can influence, with the people who are committed to creating a better future, all of us will win.

    Jason – I understand your point. I too felt the Twitter stream was a bit cluttered. But I had a different reaction; it didn’t bother me. I guess I didn’t expect meaty tweets on what was happening. Yes, as a person who could not attend, I am anxious to learn more about what happened there that day. However, I think I realized before the conference that the meat would come from blog posts, HR Happy Hour, and other discussions in the future. I believe the best is yet to come. I’m enjoying reading the initial reactions in posts. I’m looking forward to reading more meat as the ideas and concepts continue to percolate.

    Steve – That’s a good question. It’s all about expectations isn’t it? Maybe it would be worth while to have someone designated to tweet at the sessions and streaming video will help the people who can’t attend see glimpses of what is happening. But, I still think the benefits of a conference, especially an unconference about revolution and evolution will come to light after the event is over.

  • 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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