Laura Chamberlain & the ConnectingHR unconference: If we could change one thing about HR…

LauraChamberlain.jpgSomething a little bit special for this, the 28th post in our ongoing series in which the leading lights of the HR blogging community present their take on the following topic: “If I could change one thing about HR…”. It is my great pleasure today to present the first “crowdsourced” post in this series, drawing on the wealth of expertise brought together by yesterday’s inaugural ConnectingHR unconference, forming what might be termed the HR profession’s very own brain trust, if you will.

My colleagues Laura Chamberlain (author of the single tweet that sparked what has been termed “Bannatynegate”) and head of Rob Moss were responsible for putting this topic to the great and the good of ConnectingHR. Laura Chamberlain takes up the story…

Laura Chamberlain & the ConnectingHR unconference: If we could change one thing about HR…

In a cold room in the midst of Vauxhall in South London, a group of HR professionals met to discuss and debate how social collaboration can be embraced for competitive advantage. This was the UK’s first unconference for the HR profession, run by ConnectingHR.

The unconference, as the name suggests, is different from a traditional conference. Instead of long presentations dictated by the organisers, the attendees decide the agenda and lead the discussions.

As the sun set and darkness descended on the unconference, Personnel Today’s Rob Moss and Laura Chamberlain met with five HR enthusiasts to decide unanimously on one thing they would like to change about HR.

After a long debate and several sheets of flip chart paper, Ollie Gardener, Stephen Pobjoy, Charlie Duff, Mervyn Dinnen and Dominic Wake came to the following conclusion:

  • If we could change one thing about HR, it would be to make it a catalyst for change, not an inhibitor to progress.


This seemed to be the one objective everyone could agree on. HR needed to do more to enable the business and, when we presented our conclusion to the rest of the unconference, there was a resounding cheer of agreement.

The first issue was one of talent. More non-HR people, especially those with a business background, should be encouraged to join the profession. HR should no longer be seen as somewhere to ‘rest’ people. It should be somewhere exciting where talent can be noticed and make a difference.

Another problem, which was a theme that came across throughout the day, was that HR doesn’t engage enough with the business. The group suggested that when trying to introduce new measures, HR should stop focusing on return on investment as it is hard to link with HR deliverables and instead focus on the business benefits.

Technology was a big priority for the group. HR is not embracing technology and this is a big mistake. If they did, it could free up spare time for more exciting projects with much bigger business benefits. One suggestion was to make HR self service, so that admin becomes everyone’s job. The profession should be taking advantage of what is available to make the day-to-day running of its jobs quicker and simpler.

With regard to learning, HR is too focused on content delivery. Forcing employees to read sheets of paper and sign them off often results in staff skimming over information and not really taking any of it in. Instead, HR should be learning enablers, encouraging and rewarding employees who learn for themselves and learn from each other.

The overall conclusion was that HR should be the heartbeat of the business. It should engage with each part of the organisation and be a vital part of how the company runs. HR needs to enable conversation, listen to what people are saying and make a difference.

Encourage and facilitate change, don’t obstruct it.

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