My thoughts on the ConnectingHR Unconference

I admit it…..I was the one that was jealous – the person who @RobJones_Tring was referring to at the beginning of the day. I’d followed previous tweet-ups and unconferences via my twitter stream.  I watched interesting conversations unfold, could feel the energy in the room and the connections being made.  The day after I would sense a different “vibe” on twitter amongst the attendees.

Without doubt, the fact that many of us connect on an almost daily basis via Twitter influenced the flow and energy of the event.  For example:

1.  There was no need to network (which I hate).  Some conversations started with “What do you do?” but many also began with a question relating to a tweet someone has recently made.    We moved from a virtual relationship to a real one seamlessly.

2.  There was no “positioning” or game playing between attendees.  There’s no point…..we were all in the room as we like each other’s company on Twitter and the unconference was an opportunity to turn our 140 character debates into something more.

3.  We would used our knowledge of each other to propel debates forward or to seek clarification on certain points.  It felt safe to do this, and this was based on trust and respect developed prior to the event itself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you had to be active on Twitter to enjoy the event.  I just think the fact that relationships developed on Twitter prior the event help generate the incredible energy that we all felt.

And what did I get out of the event?   My main learning is that whilst technically HR theory & practice is the same wherever you work, it is the sector or industry that influences how HR is operationalised.  For example:

1. On performance management:  I sat back and listened. During the discussion the idea of doing away with a formal performance management system was mooted.  One drawback?  It’s linked to reward.   And that’s where we’re different in the NHS: we don’t link performance management to reward.   And that’s perhaps why, for years, we didn’t really push our organisations to undertake annual appraisals.  This has changed recently and whilst the quantity is up our new challenge is quality.

2.  On flexible working:  this discussion explored trust, the nature of management – employee relations and about looking at work outputs as opposed to time served.  In the NHS, the majority of our workforce have to cover a 24 hour service.  Even if they get all their work done in their 8 hour shift, they have to remain “on-duty” in the event of any emergencies that will require their clinical support.  For the NHS, flexible working is more about finding a way to offer these staff an off-duty (the rota) that supports a work-life balance.

3.  On theory vs practice:  It was heart-warming to hear so many HR practitioners talk about their evidence based approach.  One participant talked about how he enjoys reading the links from People Management articles, and how it enables him to more fully understand the topic being discussed.  I often get down-hearted as I meet NHS HR practitioners who don’t understand how theory underpins their practice.  When I coach NHS  HR teams I spend time exploring this concept and what they can do to increase their theoretical knowledge and how this relates to their practice.

Having said all that, from the discussions held today I firmly believe that there are concepts that I learnt about today that could cross over to the “dark-side” (ie the public sector).

And what would I like to see next time?

1.  Biscuits (and I’m happy to bring my own!)

2. A way to capture all the references that participants made.  Lots of people talked about journal articles or books that they had read.  I now want to read them….but I can’t remember the exact details or even who made the reference.

At the end of the day I feel inspired and I enjoyed the experience.  I’m sorry I didn’t stay until the very end (and once again I think I missed out!).    My thanks goes to Jon and Gareth for organising such a great event and to everybody else who helped facilitate the day.  Here’s to the next one!


8 comments on “My thoughts on the ConnectingHR Unconference

  1. Nice to meet you Karen.

    From the conversation about academia and practice here’s an opening bat on Evidence Based Management:

    If you want a more full on piece then try:
    Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    Volume 4, Issue 1, pages 3–22, March 2011
    Evidence-Based I–O Psychology: Not There Yet

  2. Great blog – and impressed how quickly you got it posted.
    On the biscuit front I’ve promised to bake some for the next Unconference. I’d like to help with the organising but I really need to focus on building my business so baking some raisin oaties (nicknamed ‘brazen oaties’ by a friend) will be my way of contributing.
    Thanks Sarah

  3. I a;so really enjoyed meeting you and our conversation.

    Here’s the link to Sumatra Ghoshal’s paper Bad Management Theories Are Destroying Good Management Practice:

    • karencwise says:

      Brilliant – really enjoyed hearing your thoughts and observations. Hopefully this will continue now I’ve found you on Twitter. And thanks for the link – it was one of the articles I was interested in reading.

  4. […] XpertHR: Every picture tells a story Karen Wise: My thoughts on theconnecting HRunconference Theatreacle: Who the hell am I? Me: Drawing the narrative of a conference James Mayes: The HR blog […]

  5. Excellent sum-up Karen. And Thank you to Rob and Anne Marie for great links. I was very happy finally meeting you and really pleased having you on Theory v Practice track.

  6. […] event, and in particular taking a focus on what does it mean for the organisation she works for? My thoughts on the ConnectingHR Unconference. Nice one […]

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