This Thursday, October 28, something really cool is happening in Omaha, Nebraska. Sixty or so corporate HR managers and executives are coming together to participate in an event called The HR Reinvention Experiment. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work on the planning committee for this event with some brilliant and passionate leaders here in Nebraska. Our ambitious vision for this event is that we both start a movement among HR leaders in Nebraska to transform HR and to also serve as an example for at least one way that HR leaders in other communities might activate their own revolution.
But, I want to give some credit where credit is due. The spark that led to the creation of this event was created at an event called HRevolution. If you follow my blog or my work at Talent Anarchy, you have read about HRevolution before. I was really lucky to not only attend HRevolution in May 2010, but was able to participate as a discussion leader. The event was a blast. It was energizing. It was amazing networking. I plan to be there when it happens again in 2011.
As I participated in HRevolution and upon further reflection about the experience afterwards, I realized something. HRevolution is like a mixture of band camp for HR geeks and a support group for HR professionals who are either innovators or who are at the end of their patience with their own profession (or some combination of all or them). It gives us a chance to connect, vent, brainstorm, and get charged up–all important things to do.
Another thing that struck me about HRevolution was the mix of attendees. By my estimation, I would guess that of the 120 or so attendees at the event, 95% were at least semi-active on Twitter and other social media, over half were active bloggers, and probably a third of the attendees currently held a job where they do “in the trenches” HR (the rest were vendors, consultants, service providers, etc.). There’s nothing wrong with this, but it does impact the dynamic and outcome of the event. In fact, this combination of factors is certainly what made this such a high energy, fabulous group of people to hang out with.
The problem is that the group that gathers together for HRevolution isn’t representative of what HR really looks like today. As I participated in this event and thought about the experience through the lens of “are we really evolving HR?” it seemed clear to me that much more action was needed. Change in HR isn’t going to happen on Twitter or on a blog. Change in HR is going to happen when day to day practicioners of the work begin believing and behaving differently. Social media can help fuel that fire, but most HR folks and a vast majority of HR leaders are still living in an 1.0 world. They aren’t on Twitter and they don’t read blogs. And these 1.0 leaders have enormously greater influence on what happens in HR than any blogger in the world. So, I left Chicago with the notion that the next step in the evolution process was to activate and engage the HR leaders on a local level. It seemed to me that if we couldn’t get that group in the game, this was a fight that couldn’t be won. The energy and ideas that form at HRevolution have to be carried back to our individual HR communities in order for them to really matter.
So, I came home to Nebraska from HRevolution with this idea and began ranting like a crazy person to anyone who would listen. Well, that might be overstating it. Frankly, I happen to have the great fortune of having a network here at home of really amazing HR leaders. As I shared my experience at HRevolution with them and my sense that we needed to do something in our backyard, several of them said “let’s do it.” And an event was born.
Based on the inspiration of HRevolution, we are hosting The HR Reinvention Experiment at a really cool and funky Art Center called the Hot Shops to capture a creative vibe. Also inspired by HRevolution, we are bringing together some of the smartest people in our field to lead and challenge our thinking about the work and the future of HR. Our format brings together some aspects of traditional and “un” conference. There will be some formal keynote type content, but there will also be a lot of room for discussion around important topics. We are also employing the talents of a Graphic Facilitator to capture the experience visually. This will be a conference that isn’t highly infused with social media. Our target audience of corporate HR leaders aren’t living a social media life, so change has to begin from where they are. Those of us who are in social media will try to share the story as fully and colorfully as we can to make up for the lack of a twitter stream.
I’m not sure exactly what will come of this Thursday in Omaha. What I am sure of is that something good will happen. Much like HRevolution, by putting this many passionate people together in one place at one time, there’s no way that it can’t make a positive impact. And if our small event in Nebraska starts a reinvention of HR in Nebraska, we hope that, like HRevolution, we might inspire someone else to start a reinvention of their own.