Last week, I had the opportunity to be part of two very different events. First on the agenda was HRevolution in Las Vegas. Then, I was off to Chicago to present a session at the annual SHRM Strategy Conference. Both events were very good in their own ways–and very different.
HRevolution is a gathering of HR pros who are trying to push the envelope and stretch their thinking about HR and the future of work. Many of the attendees blog and most all of them are well connected via social media. The mix of people at this conference spans from HR practitioners to HR technology vendors to consultants. There’s a lot of passion at HRevolution about how to do things differently to move the needle. This gathering feels sort of organic and informal. There’s a palpable energy of anticipation that exists in room.
SHRM Strategy, on the other hand, is a more traditional and formal conference. There were probably 500 HR leaders gathered together from across the country to talk about how to design and execute more strategic HR to drive organizational results. The tone of this conference was much more serious. It was clear that most of the people there were searching for meaningful and practical information that they could put into use when they return to the office this week. While this conference was less playful than HRevolution, it made up for it with intensity and focus.
So, two very different conferences with one big thing in common. The thing that I felt at both conferences was something that we increasingly overlook as our worlds become more and more digital–community. In both cases, it felt like I was among my people. You could feel a sense of belonging and acceptance in the room at both events, particularly in Chicago.
Community is a powerful thing. Being among people who understand your language and can relate to your struggles is fulfilling. Members of your community can help you in ways that others, even those who love you the most, cannot because they understand what it means to walk in your shoes. Leaders need to cultivate community for themselves and for those who follow them. The community can provide us stability and support.
Community is critical. Conferences, and particularly those like SHRM Strategy and HRevolution who have focused attendee criteria, are a tremendous way to experience, build and grow community. The thing about community though is that it requires your participation. It requires that you get out and be a part of it. Too often, I talk to HR and other leaders who don’t attend conferences, don’t use social networks, and generally don’t put any energy into connecting beyond the people they are required know to do their jobs. They have decided to forgo the community, thinking that they lack the time for it. Unfortunately, that means they sacrifice the support, growth, resources, and insight that lives within the community that could help them do their job better. They miss out on the relationships with people who, on the days when the burden of the job is heavy, could say that they’ve been there and share with some experience on how to survive it.
My advice is to make time to be with and grow your community. Go to a conference once or twice a year and actively connect with others there. Build your social networks and find groups to join and connect with where they discuss what you are most passionate about. Get involved in your local professional organizations and networking groups. You will be thankful that you did.
I know that I feel more inspired, connected and motivated today as a result of spending time with my communities last week.