Collaborate or die…

[tweetmeme]It’s now getting on for 9 months since Jon Ingham and I first threw around the idea of getting HR people together in order to discuss, promote and generally upscale the level of involvement in social connecting by HR professionals.

2 tweetups and a Yammer group later and we are on the eve of the first UK HR Unconference to hit the UK.  I must admit, its all gathered momentum much faster than I had originally anticipated but that’s largely down to the power of social media itself.

Although we had planned to promote the community and the tweetups via traditional means, the tweetups took on a life of their own thanks to twitter so in the end, apart from a few initial tweets, our traditional marketing plans went out the window.  Just as well because this is a personal initiative of mine so time to support it is minimal given the day job.

The hashtag we set up for it – #connectinghr – has also taken on a life of its own, becoming a popular tag that twitter users who are sharing thoughts, links and insights into HR add to the end of their tweets.  This has spread to people who have not even been part of the tweetups or the community directly.  To see what I mean, check out a google search for #connectinghr over 56,000 mentions with over 800 of them in blogs.  A twitter search will also show you some of the content and how people are using it.  Powerful stuff.

As someone who leads a marketing function, this was a real eye opener for me.  As a recruitment firm, we are already well aware of the impact of social media – both positive and negative – for our business. However, it was only through starting this initiative and setting up ConnectingHR that I saw the power of social media tools, and twitter in particular, for marketing.

Of course, social media tools reach far beyond being an addition to the marketing toolkit and this is why Jon and I have been keen to raise the profile of social media in HR.  The potential of the connected organisations – both internally with employees and externally with customers is huge.  It promises to transform not only the way we do business, but also in the way we construct organisational boundaries and connect as individuals across the globe.

Yet, amazingly, social media and the whole issue of social connecting is still viewed with suspicion by the vast majority of organisations and HR functions/professionals in particular.  Resourcing and talent functions are beginning to embrace some of the tools, either to find and attract talent or to supplement the employer-branding proposition.

But in many other quarters, social media remains only a policy issue, and a negative one at that.  I believe that this is a huge missed opportunity and a big misunderstanding, fuelled largely by the fact that many HR professionals are not using the social tools themselves.

Which is where the unconference comes in.  If you have not heard of an unconference before, have a look at the ConnectingHR website for more information.  Basically, it’s your conference. If you attend, you set the agenda. No sponsors, no one way presentations.  Just quality discussions between HR professionals about the impact and potential of social media on their organisations.

To be honest, neither Jon nor I are sure how this is going to go!  Most conference attendees are not expecting to create the agenda themselves.  But the early signs are encouraging.  Community members are already taking on the job of marketing the conference to their peers and we already have a number of attendees submitting their ideas for the subject and content of the day.

Having attended unconferences before we both know they can be inspirational, enlightening and very rewarding.  With your help, the first unconference for the HR profession in the UK can be too.

Hope to see you there.

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