When I was young and thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I considered teaching. I sensed the seed of that notion but it never took root. At least that's what I thought at the time.
Since then, I've ventured down many paths and finally settled in a HR role for the past fifteen years. Hence, I've learned the intricacies of recruiting, administration, benefits, safety, compliance, engagement, etc. etc. I've also learned there are nuances to these that appear to be an ongoing treasure hunt. During this time, my position continued to elevate and for the past year and a half, I've been in a director's role.
In that role, I understood as the name implies, my job would be to direct. Thinking of a movie director, I was able to envision this role easily. I understood there were many moving parts. There were actors, writers, set designers, costume makers, all of the different roles. As the director, my job was to point the way.
However, one nuance of the director’s role is it is a great opportunity to teach. Since I took on the director's job, I thought and believed it to be part of the role. Lately though, this has grown into a palpable feeling.
Broad, But Relevant
Attending the HR Technology Conference for the fourth year in a row, I wondered if this year's conference would have any impact on me. In the past, I've gone home with more ideas than I could implement in one year. The question after four years is, are there any nuances left to learn from this conference?
To me it's odd, but there are. Some of this relies on looking at the agenda and choosing interesting content. But much more of it, depends on creating content that is broad enough to touch the relevancies for the individual.
Thus, when I say that day one of the HR Technology Conference was about teaching, I cannot say that was the intent. But it certainly touch the relevancy in this individual.
After Bill Kutik’s opening comments on Monday, the day’s keynote, Tom Koulopoulos President & Co-Founder Delphi Group energetically bound onto the stage with the immediate message that we need to break free from the lens that we see through.
Koulopoulos’ was referring to how we need to rethink the cloud in human terms. The cloud is not the internet. The cloud is the reflection of our behaviors. And the changes in this technology over the coming decades will prove to be bigger and more persuasive than we can see now.
The cloud is beyond Facebook and social media outlets. It’s a disruptive force that will define our future connections … social, economically, politically, and organizationally. Furthermore, the role of HR is to grasp this behavior and be its captain.
For Koulopoulos, disruption is a key role for HR. We must see the set behavioral patterns in the organization, seek ways to disrupt this system, and teach the organization new behavioral patterns. Recognizing my current feelings about teaching, and my belief that dissent is a true HR value, I easily concurred. Hearing this was welcome validation.
Continuing this theme, Ben Brooks, SVP & Global Director, Enterprise Communications & Colleague Engagement, and Laurie Ledford, CHRO, from Marsh Insurance painted a vivid picture of how they have used social tools to create an enterprise talent management solution in their concurrent session.
Comparing their organization to San Francisco foggy mornings, it was notable that this probably applies to many organizations. The morning fog prevailing over the city delays air flights and blocks your view of seeing the hustling metropolis below, and this is how CEO’s view their organization. Not willing to settle for this, Marsh used some of the inherent transparencies in social programs to alleviate the fog.
Carefully constructing a program based on their culture, they wisely didn’t just put up a Facebook page and encouraged the use of Yammer. Instead, they started with the theme that everyone is a teacher. They believed everyone had something to share on a social platform that someone else could learn. From there, they engaged their early adapters, created curiosity for the typical social media lurkers and encouraged more activity from the passive contributors.
They recognized the need to keep the platform simple. Hence they used a Wordpress format. But even though they understood that simplicity will encourage more participation, they set a high expectation for people to grasp the technology. They believed that anyone could adopt the social program. They even created a method for their CEO to be involved which eventually opened up some of the fog in their organization.
Have a Theme
One of Brooks and Ledford’s takeaways was to have a theme in creating this type of program. But in the broader sense, I thought HR should be more thematic overall in their organizations, not just for a project or program. I have witnessed HR departments create missions for their department. I think the concept is interesting but sometimes convoluted. A thematic approach is simpler and more embraceable. A theme stays consistent even if the plot and characters change.
Thinking about this teaching role for HR, I left the first day of HR Tech feeling like it’s up to me. This was not an arrogant or burdensome feeling. It was an empowering feeling. It was the notion that HR is more than the administrators and the school principles. We’re the teachers.