Gonna Set My Soul on Fire With Some HR Technology

About the time you’re getting the chicken and roasties out the oven this Sunday I’ll probably be starting to jam your Twitter timelines with talk of Gen Y mythbusters, HR improv, hickeys and employer brand (not at the same time I hope), not to mention passion and great places to work.

Yep, that means I’ll be hanging out with some of my US HR friends at HRevolution. (#HRevolution)

And by the time Coronation Street starts on Monday I’ll be immersed in radical openness and workforce analytics. I’ll be at the HR Technology Conference too. (#HRTechConf)

So apologies in advance if I get a bit carried away with this stuff.

I’ll be joining an awesome blogging team and don’t want to let the side down so I’ll do my best to make sense of it all and write about it here.

According to Blogging4Jobs I’m in for 3 days of conference sessions, expo hall madness, and parties galore – sounds like it might be a tough gig, but someone’s gotta try and do it 😉 And this time there’s also a wedding (#ZuCoWedding)

Maybe that’s what Elvis meant with how I wish that there were more than the twenty-four hours in the day, cause even if there were forty more I wouldn’t sleep a minute away

I’ve been to Chicago and Atlanta for HRevolution in the past so I sort of know what to expect, but this is my first time at HRTech – can’t wait to experience it.

If you’re reading this and planning to be there – then let’s make sure we meet up.

And if you’re in the UK I hope I give you some insight into what’s going on through Twitter and this blog.

I promise that what happens in Vegas will stay on the blog…well, the bits you need to know about anyway 😉


(Image via @Jeremywaite)

Some People Who Rocked My Week

Over the last week I’ve attended two amazing events – HRevolution and ConnectingHR Unconference – and have met some super people. In fact I’ve not met anyone who I wouldn’t want to spend a lot more time with.

I don’t really do #FollowFriday on Twitter anymore and have been fairly ambivalent towards the various debates that have sprung up about it in recent months, seeing it more a matter of personal choice.

This weekend is different though. I want to let my blog readers/followers know about some of the people I’ve met. 

I could have tweeted out lists of names with an #FF hashtag but decided that would add little value.

So how about I focus on the people who really did it for me, who really rocked my world this week?

Now I’m putting in the disclaimer early. Everyone I met rocked my week in one way or another. I could easily have put down 200+ names, so I’m going for those who either I didn’t know very well before, or those with whom I really made a connection and who readers of this blog should connect with too…. Continue reading “Some People Who Rocked My Week”

Heading down the Atlanta Highway…looking for the HRevolution Love Shack!

I’m headin’ down the Atlanta highway,      
Love Shack, that’s where it’s at!
Huggin’ and a kissin’, dancin’ and a lovin’, 

How come we had no Love Shack themes going at HRevolution 2011? How did we miss the HR Love Shack!

The love was certainly there…

Love for the organisers

Love for the sponsors

Love for the track leaders

Love for the attendees…each and every one of us

Even love for the HRBritpack!

All of it fully deserved!

On my long and rambling journey back to London I’ve been thinking about how to explain HRevolution to someone who’s never been. To call it an (un)conference doesn’t seem to fully do this event justice. There’s way too much energy, adrenalin, friendship, respect…and partying!

It’s so much more. Continue reading “Heading down the Atlanta Highway…looking for the HRevolution Love Shack!”

Social media isn’t going away any time soon!

Are we living in a social media bubble? So asked this blog on Econsultancy yesterday, with some strong references to asset bubbles and tipping points.

It’s a question that often crosses my mind. I wrote about it in my post Boy in the Bubble and debated it over a couple of beers with Kevin Ball, leading to his blog Social Media and Mars Bars

I came at it more from the angle of social media users being in a minority, yet by connecting and engaging with  other  social media users all the time we are in a cocoon where everyone we know seems to be social. The Econsultancy article looked at a slightly wider view – is this a bandwagon, doomed to overheat like asset bubbles, housing bubbles and the dotcom bubble.

For me, we aren’t in that kind of a bubble, but the overload of consultants, experts and strategists fighting a turf war over business insecurities on whether they should embrace social are themselves creating a bubble that can’t help but go pop. And as with the other bubbles mentioned earlier, some of the talking heads will do quite well and others will not, ending up kicking around looking for the next bandwagon.

But social media as a communication tool isn’t about to burst anytime soon…any more than there were ever bursting telephone bubbles or e-mail bubbles. Sure they way we use it, and the expectations we have of it, will change and refine over time, but most individuals and businesses will come to use it in a way that suits them.

Over the next 7 days I’ll be attending 2 unconferences – HRevolution in the USA and ConnectingHR in the UK – at which HR and recruiting professionals will talk about their work, and how social media is impacting. How we can harness the opportunities that it offers to create better businesses and relationships. These events are almost exclusively organised and promoted through social media channels, and I will already know (both offline and online) the 250 or so attendees. The reach of each one of us means that what we say and think, how we take back certain learnings and implement them, will have a reach running well over a million.

Then in a few weeks’ time, the company I work for – Jobsite UK – will be bringing two thought leaders to the UK to talk about Engagement and The Social Revolution to a number of our clients, contacts and partners. The social ripples spreading further.

There can be little doubt that the connectivity of these communities provides tremendous opportunities for collaboration and progress. One of the ConnectingHR community (Alison Chisnell) commented the other night – after disclosing that she had sourced, through the community, two excellent candidates for roles in her company – ‘another reason why HR needs to go social’. Seeing as how her usual recruitment agency partners had failed to deliver the calibre of candidate that she was looking for, it was a case of Traditional Methods 0 Social Business 1

Maybe these anecdotes are a little too isolated for some. Maybe the tipping point seems a long way off. Maybe the bursting point seems nearer. So I’ll give you another example.

This morning I watched my 16 year old son arranging a trip to the cinema this evening with friends.

Through Facebook.

They shared a YouTube link to the trailer.

They will be entering the workforce in 5/6 years’ time.

They aren’t living in a bubble…it’s their world…for communication, it’s pretty much all they will know.

Social Media isn’t going away any time soon.

HRevolution 2011 – The British Invasion

February 9th 1964 – The Beatles appear on the Ed Sullivan Show and start the ‘British Invasion’

April 29th 2011 – The HRBritPack appear at HRevolution for another ‘British Invasion’

Yes, it’s HRevolution week!

Last year’s event in Chicago was certainly one of my highlights of 2010 with so many intriguing conversations and thought provoking sessions. Whilst there seems little difference between the issues facing HR and Recruitment professionals from the US and UK it was certainly refreshing to hear a different perspective.

So I can’t wait to touch down in Atlanta and see old friends and new faces! And this time there will be some more Brits coming along for the experience!

A veritable HRBritPack no doubt ready to amuse and debate in equal measures! And with the second ConnectingHR unconference happening 5 days later, it will provide a great opportunity to get an insight into new thinking around people strategies in a social world.

So who is in the HRBritPack?

Neil Morrison – Group HRD of a major publishing company, an experienced HR practitioner and writer of the blog Change-Effect.

Gareth Jones – Career spanning HR, Recruitment, Marketing and Technology and writer of the blog ‘Inside My Head’. Co-founder of ConnectingHR.

Jon Ingham – The other co-founder of ConnectingHR, Jon is a writer, speaker and consultant in human capital management. Read Strategic HCM

And me!

We’ll be checking in on Friday afternoon…come and say hello!

Connecting HR : The Revolution Starts Now!

Maybe revolution is a little strong, but there was definitely an air of change, of something new and exciting, happening at the ConnectingHR Unconference last Thursday.

Maybe it was the surroundings at Spring Community Centre (all very Reservoir Dogs) which lent the proceedings an almost militant air?

Or was it the ambience, part palpable excitement, part nervousness of the new that gave it an edge?

Whichever it was, there’s no denying that what started as a small step into Social for the UK HR community ended as a giant leap! When I went to HREvolution in May, the US HR community ended with a key track about breaking out of the echo chamber…for the UK it’s a case, for now, that we need to break IN! And I’m so excited to be part of a movement which is encouraging just that.

So having had a couple of days’ reflection, what are my thoughts? Three things stand out…

Engagement and Trust

It became clear during each track that I sat in, when the discussions turned to the leap of faith needed to let your people embrace the social and start connecting, that we have a way to go before we eradicate the fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of employees saying something that will reflect poorly on the company, fear of them saying things to each other that may de-motivate. Fear of the transparency and fear of the immediacy.

The attendees all wanted to know more; to be able to go back to their companies and make something new happen, yet back home there would undoubtedly be naysayers and doom mongers. There were certainly some lively discussions, with earlier adopters sharing examples with newer adopters of what had worked and what hadn’t.

And for me it always comes back to Engagement and Trust.

The second blog that I posted here, almost a year ago, was about needing to trust your people if you want to get the best out of them. I’ve had countless conversations about social media since then, with people talking about the control and guidelines, the policies and the ownership, and I’ve never wavered from my belief that if your employees are engaged, and they believe in the values of your company, and can operate in a transparent culture in which they are trusted to do things the right way, then you have nothing to fear from them embracing social media.

It was interesting that when we looked at the world cloud from the mornings chatter and tweeting, that the word ‘Control’ was most used. I don’t think that it was used in a negative way, but I do wonder if HR has an innate belief that if something was to go wrong it would be down to them.

We need to get the buy in from everyone…from the CEO to the cleaner. And if the CEO embraces Twitter, then he or she will have to accept that at 11pm one night they may end up online discussing the latest episode of Mad Men with the cleaner. If they have a problem with that then I believe that this is almost certainly indicative of a wider problem of engagement within the business.


The afternoon tracks I went to were a bit more political! The Age of Austerity loomed large over discussions about jobs, skills, training and the big society.

The two big discussions were over the role of HR during the next few years. Firstly, where did it sit during spending cuts and tough times? With management? With the wider workforce?  Or somewhere in the middle? And whose message will they be carrying? A much trickier question than first sounds.

Then I moved on to the the crowd sourced attempt to join the ‘What’s The One Thing I Would Change About HR’ thread.

Ultimately the two ended quite close together…HR needs to be commercial, to be in the business not regulating the business…and probably needs to attract operators from other support functions to really enhance this commerciality. Credibility wasn’t mentioned, but I suspect that a team drawn from a wider business background may pack more clout.

I had asked a question…what if, in Summer 2008, HR had gone to the board, concerned about the impending economic conditions, concerned that they had heard the sales team having difficulties, concerned that the finance team were worried on cash flow, and suggested that the company take a look at its plans and forecasts for the coming 2 years…would anyone have listened?

Probably not. If sales guys have a problem, then it’s up to their manger/director to sort it out…admission that things are getting tougher is more likely to lead to a new manager/director than a re-think of corporate strategy, so may not be aired.

HR should be at the heart of the business, its pulse and its heartbeat, and social media could and should be the oxygen that enables it. A truly connected company, with everyone in the conversation, can lead to a more enlightened, progressive business, in my very humble opinion.

Which is why I was so pleased that the final group decided that the one thing we would change about HR would be…to make it a catalyst for change, not an inhibitor to progress!


I’ve said three things, and that’s very apt, because the first attendee to blog was Alison Chisnell, talking about her 3 learning takeaways.

And this says it all for me because she had never blogged before, yet barely 12 hours after Gareth and Jon closed the doors on ConnectingHR (literally!) Alison published that blog. And it was her FIRST EVER BLOG. Now that’s what I call action! That’s being energised and motivated by an event!

Barely a few hours after that, two other attendees had changed their Twitter names to their own names and their avatars to pictures of themselves. More blogs were being published and were being commented on.

I could sense the energy and curiosity from the very first track, with HR professionals wanting to know more about what tools and platforms to use, how to use them and how to encourage others to use them. And within a day, they were jumping in and using them!

So there you have it. My fourth unconference and I really do still feel like a kid on Christmas morning at the start of each one…always fun, always entertaining, always informative and always full of really interesting people.

My biggest hope from this one?

HR is coming and they’re going to make the corporate world a lot more SOCIAL!

Controlling The Message??

I’ve noticed a lot of concern voiced recently over the possibility of employees saying negative things through social media which may affect their employer’s brand or image. There’s a neat summary on this blog by Michael Carty and I was involved in at least 2 group discussions at HRevolution on the subject.

HR clearly feels that they will have to pick up the pieces. I’ve heard talk of controlling the message, of laying down ground rules and guidelines for staff who want to blog, tweet or go on Facebook fan pages.

Yet I wonder what damage is done when a senior person in an organisation voices something, either planned or spontaneously, that gives a negative impression of the business. And why are there no controls, guidelines or ground rules for them?

Surely an employer being indiscrete does more damage than an employee?

Some readers will remember the entrepreneur Gerald Ratner. For those unfamiliar, he was CEO of a large high street jewellery group. He once commented in a speech:

“People say, “How can you sell this for such a low price?”, I say, “because it’s total crap”.

When commenting on the earrings that his shops sold, he said that they were:

“cheaper than a Marks & Spencers prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long”

Needless to say there was an immediate negative impact on the business …the value of the group plummeted £500million with loss of custom and jobs. Clearly customers don’t like to taken for granted, but then neither do employees. Who wants to work for a company whose goods can be dismissed so lightly by the CEO? Negative employees don’t always put shoppers off, but a CEO dismissing his products will.

Most of my regular followers will know that I’m a supporter of Arsenal Football Club. Well this weekend I received my season ticket renewal application. It’s not cheap supporting a football team, particularly if you go to matches every week, and Arsenal is one of the more expensive clubs to follow, yet loyal supporters’ passions are not normally subject to cost criteria. They do, however, go into each new season with an expectation of seeing some success.

Football followers will know that Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for 5 years and that, whilst they may play some exciting football, supporters begin to get restless.

So it was a bit disconcerting to see the manager, Arsene Wenger, say last week that finishing 3rd in the Premiership, and therefore qualifying for the Champions League, is like winning a trophy. The rationale for this I believe is that if you don’t win the 2 main trophies (Champions League or Premiership) then automatic qualification for the Champions League will net you about £20,000,000 whilst winning the FA Cup will net you £1,800,000.

Which makes great commercial sense…yet will hardly quicken the pulse or heart rate of a supporter about to hand over a lot of money for their entertainment next season who desperately want to see their team win. Hardly the best sales pitch…come and watch us finish 3rd.

Never mind the customers (like me) what about the current and future employees?? A top club employs, and hires, players who want to be the best and win…yet what if your boss effectively tells you that not winning will be OK? That finishing 3rd is like winning? Can I be confident that when I turn up next season I will be watching players who want to win trophies…or just finish 3rd?

We football fans are used to seeing players moan about their clubs, and openly tout themselves as available for transfer, and none of this dims the supporters’ enthusiasm…yet a negative message from the manager (the voice of the club in terms of exposure) can achieve this instantly.

I can understand concern over employees voicing negative thoughts…but will a policy to counter this also cover comments from managers and owners?

What are the most damning comments you have come across…and what effect did they have?

Is The Key To Social Learning in The ‘Social’ not The ‘Learning’?

Learning…what is it? How do we do it?

If people say ‘I didn’t learn anything’ what do they mean?

There’s a debate going on now in the UK started by a blog from Michael Carty on why e-learning is seen as ineffective…seems that studies from CIPD and XpertHR showed that whilst e-learning is on the increase, not many think that it’s effective.


Are we so conditioned to the classroom style teaching of our youth that learning is something we do when we’re sat in rows taking notes whilst someone tells stuff we don’t know?

Are we saying, in the words of Kurt Cobain…Here We Are Now, Entertain Us (or rather,  Enlighten Us)

Unconferences such as HRevolution are one aspect of Social Learning, and for a lot of us they are the one of choice at the moment.

And I’m wondering about this because I’ve been reading some post–HRevolution blogs and realize that from a learning viewpoint maybe this event didn’t completely work for everyone, some writers didn’t really learn and in some cases didn’t hear anything new.

I’ve also read that some of the topics tend to get covered at other HR/Recruiting unconference type events now…as we become more regular attendees will we need constantly new topics to engage us, or just different people to discuss them with?

So far in my relatively short time attending unconferences, I have certainly:

–  Picked up information that I didn’t know before

–  Heard people’s views on subjects/topics/issues that made me think about them slightly differently (the topics, not the people)

–  Been able to talk, discuss and debate within small groups in a way in which I have gained information, knowledge and wisdom, as well as (I hope) passing on some of my own thoughts

Yet most of this has come when I have been part of a small group, or a break out group of 2 or 3…a bit like focus groups really. When there’s been a larger track, with many attendees, I’ve noticed a tendency to look to the track leaders to inform, direct, answer questions and provide commentary and insight…yet shouldn’t they be facilitators helping to keep the conversation flowing and on track? A bit like focus group moderators who ensure that everyone gets to join in the conversation and get heard.

Maybe if we are to get maximum benefit from Social Learning, especially from our unconferences, networking and crowd sourcing then…the answer may well lie in getting Social before you can get to the Learning

…I’d love to know what you think?

Reasons To Be Cheerful…I’m Chicago Bound!!

I am so excited! I’m going to Chicago for HRevolution!!! And I can’t wait!

I’m honoured to have got a scholarship from Nobscot, a company whose products and services, and vision and values are genuinely impressive. Getting the chance to meet their CEO Beth Carvin, and spend time with her finding out more about what they do, will be an absolute highlight.

The whole buzz surrounding the event is electric…and I’m still 3,000 miles away! Seriously, some of the blogs I’ve already read have already created a real sense of anticipation, with the range of topics, track leaders and attendees truly awesome.

My introduction will be simple…

I’m Mervyn

I’m from England

I’m here to learn and to share

I’m a Recruiter


(That’s right…I don’t want to scrap it, I don’t hate it…and as I’m an HR recruiter, they tend not to hate me either!)

With that out of the way I can’t wait to meet all my US HR Twitter pals and talk, engage, debate and learn about some really important and vibrant topics. Vicariously I think and talk about these issues every day, so the opportunity to listen and learn more from thought leaders, bloggers, futurologists and some really great, clued up HR pros is too good to miss!

Big, Big shout of thanks to:

Nobscot…for generosity and a mission to make the world a better place to work

The HR Evolution Team…for tirelessly putting this all together and making it happen


Twitter…hell, none of you would have known who I was otherwise!

See you Friday!!