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    « Numbers never lie - but they change how we behave | Main | Notes from the Road #13 - #HRevolution Edition »

    Owning Disruption at #HRevolution

    Submitting this dispatch, (yet again) from the Delta Sky Club on my way home from the wonderful HRevolution event held over the weekend in Grapevine, Texas. (Note: See below embedded the song that has been burning my psyche ever since I knew we were holding the event in a place called Grapevine).

    One of the highlights of the event for me was a session, really a classic and engaging HRevolution-style discussion, on Disrupting HR that was facilitated by Frank Zupan and Tammy Colson, long-time HRevolution 'family' members'. It was a great discussion that at times traveled to the notion of 'disruption' itself, whether or not it even makes sense to talk about disruption in an HR context, and what might be some examples of people or organizations that have actually 'Disrupted' HR.

    In the discussion, I felt compelled to actually participate quite a bit more than I usually do in HRevolution sessions, (normally I am running around herding attendees, making sure the coffee pots are full), and I think it was primarily due to how or what I think is driving just about all of the disruption in organizations today - technology.

    For the first 150-odd years of workplace (HR and otherwise) technology, the 'disruptions' that were caused for workers and workplaces were introduced and driven by company owners who were looking to improve efficiency and profitability, and later (much later), by corporate IT departments who became tasked with finding, evaluating, and introducing new technology into the workplace.

    Over time, HR departments, (and also sales and procurement and facilities and sales, and just about all other back office functions) never really 'owned' the technologies that they used to do their jobs. These were provided by company ownership, stewdarded by IT, and simply became the de-facto foundation for performing back office and administrative tasks. 

    But today, (and what has been building really for the last half-dozen years or so), both back-office functions like HR and marketing have claimed much more significant influence and control over the kinds of technologies that they use in the workplace, and that can in turn, significantly impact, drive, and enable this notion of 'disruption'. This is driven by the cloud, SaaS, mobile, declining cost of computing, and the amazingly powerful smart phones just about every employee carries.

    It doesn't really matter if you care for the term 'disruption' or not, there is not any doubt that for all except the most backward looking companies that new workplace technologies have changed the very nature of work. I suppose the question then becomes, with all this new(ish) ability to set the technology, (and consequently) the disruption agenda, is what will HR do with it?

    In the past two decades the most disruptive new technology introduced to workplaces has to be Email.

    And email was, is , and probably always will be 'owned' by a corporate IT department. HR's involvement with Email as a disruptive technology was/is merely to set and occasionally enforce standards for conduct, content, etc. 

    Just what will be the next workplace technology that proves to be as disruptive as email remains to be seen.

    A better question for HR leaders, and folks that want to become one such, is whether or not HR will be the driving force behind whatever this/these technologies end up being, or whether they, like in the Email example, end up being simply passengers (and sometime police) who are along for the ride.

    Workplace 'disruption' will be owned by who is driving the technology agenda. It might be IT, it might be leadership, it might even be rank and file employees.

    But if you're in HR and you want a say in the future of your organization, (and your career), you want to be a part of that conversation. You probably want to lead that conversation, actually.

    Thanks to all the HRevolution attendees, speakers, sponsors, fellow organizers, and friends for a fantastic event! 

    Oh yeah - here is the song I wanted to share, 'Grapevine Fires' by Death Cab for Cutie (email and RSS subscribers will have to click through to see the video).

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    Reader Comments (4)

    Great post, Steve. I tell all my HR contacts they don't have to be (or shouldn't have to be) tech specialists to drive tech strategy. They do, however, need a clear vision of their own HR strategy/disruption and have the right partnerships (IT and vendors) to deliver that to their organizations.

    November 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChad

    Thanks Chad - I think that is a wise approach.

    November 15, 2014 | Registered CommenterSteve

    Atuh nuhun nya

    August 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterFauzi


    August 11, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterabas

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