ConnectingHR: Strategy, money and a little bit of love…

Just about 2 years ago, I caught up with Jon Ingham for a coffee.  We both recognised HR professionals were under represented on social media and thought this was a missed opportunity for HR.  Very soon after that #ConnectingHR was born and the seed of a community was sown.  At the time, for me, there were three principle reasons for trying to make #connectingHR work, two of which I was quite vocal about to my colleagues:

A strategic experiment – Part of my responsibility in the role I had at the time was to try and scope out what the future of recruitment would look like, and how we as a business needed to change to ensure our survival.  So in 2008, my team and I began pushing the boudaries and scoped out a new business model, one where community was front and centre of the solution, not a bunch of recruitment consultants.  Unfortunately, my peers on the exec team were less than convinced.  After 18 months of procrastination, I decided to do it anyway – cue #connectingHR.  A grand experiment, which I hoped would be a great opportunity to say “I told you so” (This will be my epitaph….)

Commercial benefit – Yep, the dirty subject of money.  At the time, I was in the HR recruitment business and as I said above, the strategic intent was to use this model as a way of re energising the business.  Growing community = growing network = growing opportunity = growing revenue.  Of course, it was never the intention to rape the community for all its worth – that’s just not me as many of you will know.  And that definitely wasn’t the culture of Courtenay HR or the parent company.  But laid right out there was the fact that engaging the community would lead to opportunities for business growth.  A better way to meet new potential clients beyond the hackneyed cold call and great potential candidates beyond combing through a gazillion CV’s and endless interviews.

There was a third reason, which I didn’t talk that much about at all, to anyone:

Belonging – I’m not sure that this is the best word for it, but at 7.55am on a typical #commutinghell run, its the best I can do to sum up a larger group of words including help, support, engagement, friends, angst, disappointment, anger and love.  Yes even love.  I’m a people person me.  I gain personally from meeting new people, having a support network around me of people who I don’t just know on a professional footing, but with whom I have shared some more of the inner me. People I can turn to, rely on and generally feel my life is better for knowing.  That was my secret ambition for #ConnectingHR.

So how did we do?

Strategic expereiment – #Fail.  The parent company never bought it.  They couldn’t get beyond “Why should we bother?”.

Commercial benefit – #Success-ish.  Despite never making the leap, we did gain commercially, albeit in a much smaller way.  We won business from the relationships we built up through the tweetups and the first #unconference.  And overall, we shortened the time it took to build a productive and worthwhile relationship from a year or two down to a matter of months.  We could have done so much more, but without the buy in to the overall strategy, it was never going to happen.

Belonging – #Success – It is only the beginning, and the online community site has grown to a modest 110 strong in just over a month, yet the reach is far beyond that, across twitter, blogs, facebook and even campsites – yes campsites.  The commitment, support etc – all of the above are present, and to me anyway, what I hoped for has certainly been delivered.  I know others have felt it too – people have even found their next HR role through the connections in the community.  The best endorsement came the other day when someone commented on “how genuinely supportive and engaging the community is.”

And what better example is there of this connectedness, this willingness to help and collaborate than our #unconference.  Our third is coming up on the 20th October.  As a co founder of the community, our first in October 2010 was organised entirely by Jon and I.  Two events on and the latest #unconference is being organised almost entirely by other members of the community.  To me that is phenomenal.  An ambition achieved.  Nay, exceeded.

Its not a big affair, no fanfare, no bells and whistles and no hidden agenda.  Just a group of like minded HR folk coming together to talk about the issues facing them and their organisations today, in an environment that strips away all the corporate guff.  If you want to do the same, then why not sign up and join us on the day.  I guarantee it will be like no other HR conference you have ever been to.

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