The HR Juggler

Archive for the ‘ConnectingHR’ Category


Networks are funny things, aren’t they? So often people bemoan networking and how hard it is to forge a connection with people, whether that is on a personal or a professional level. Too often there is a cynicism of wondering what someone else may want from you, or the fear of finding yourself stuck with someone who can’t resist giving you a hard sell for their products, or simply not finding the other person of interest. Too often all those potential pitfalls are genuinely the reality.

I’ve learnt a few things about networks over the past couple of weeks. Firstly, that you should build one when you don’t think you really need it and instead spend time figuring out how to contribute to others in your circle that could benefit from any expertise, support or help you can offer, however small and insignificant it may seem to you. The chances are, it won’t feel that way to whoever is on the receiving end.

Secondly, social media can be an amazing place to forge connections with people. Sure, you have to engage and be yourself, be inquisitive and share experiences, but when it works, it is so powerful. The HR and professional networks I have made through Twitter have formed into strong friendship in many cases and unstinting, consistent, solid support in countless others. ConnectingHR really did transform my professional network and continues to do so and boy, am I grateful!

The third thing I’ve learnt about networks? When you have a good one and when you need it, it’s amazing. Thank you to all of those people in mine who have been extraordinarily generous with their time, resources, contacts, offers of help and thoughts. It is hugely appreciated.

My blogging hiatus is over….as of today, I am back in the game!


Day 6’s post is by the rather wonderful Neil Usher who can be found on Twitter @workessence – he is a  blogger, poet, property guru and an integral part of the ConnectingHR community. I know that I can speak for all of us when I say we are richer for his presence amongst us and I love his take on what he has gained through being a part of it all…I think you will too!


I have been privileged for the last couple of years to be part of the ConnectingHR community, despite not being in HR. I don’t pay any subscriptions, I don’t have any commitments, I don’t collect CPD airmiles, and I don’t have a lapel badge. I have been to three unconferences, and several socials. I still marvel that I wouldn’t have found many of the people I have met through this community I now consider friends without Twitter, and professionally would have still been rattling around the biscuit tin of property, wondering how I could ever get out.

The reality is that ConnectingHR has little to do with HR. It may as well just be called Connecting. While there are overlaps between our LinkedIn lives, most of the energy within the group comes from others sources. While the community needed a draw, its perpetuation to a great extent leaves it at the door. Why are we connected at all?

  • Social tools break down connection theories – forget bridges, edges and the rest of the molecular chemistry theories, we play a game of chance every time we engage (and sometimes even when we don’t), and can be amazed by what we find
  • It is instantly and perpetually non-judgmental – we can, in this space, be entirely who we are and not be concerned
  • It is a gift economy – we freely give advice, help, guidance, provide connections and introductions with no expectations of transaction – and yet are then free to ask when we need help or advice
  • It is experimental – no everything works, attendance is highly variable, and the fringes are deep – but that’s entirely okay
  • We all strive for a simpler language, and greater honesty in our personal and business engagement, scathing of the smokescreen of business BS
  • We are not afraid to say it as it is, and frequently do – the community is as much about blogging and “getting it out there” as about face to face interaction
  • It is a living laboratory, where we run out of walls to throw ideas at
  • It holds our anticipation – we never know what is going to happen next

I say openly that it has enriched my life. Thanks for letting me in.


Today was the fourth ConnectingHR Unconference. I have attended two of the previous three unconferences and enjoyed them immensely, and today was no exception…in fact, it was particularly special and quite possibly the best one yet.

From the moment I arrived at the spruced-up Spring in Vauxhall, I was struck by the number of people who I didn’t recognise or previously know: of the 60 or so unconference attendees, at least half hadn’t attended anything similar before and many were new to ConnectingHR. The buzz of energy in the room was tangible as people focussed on getting to know each other, making connections and putting faces to names. From the start, it was clear that it was going to be a good day.

In a change to the usual unconference format, there was some structure to start the day (shock horror!) and we kicked off with a series of thought-provoking pecha kucha presentations on the theme of the power of a socially engaged organisation. From authentic personal perspectives on social media from Doug Shaw and Flora Marriott, to Phil Clothier’s insight into organisational values; from Jamie Priestly’s thoughts on HR metrics and the dangers of measuring everything possible without understanding the commercial and human reality, to real examples of how ThomsonReuters social platform is enabling conversation and community in the workplace…there was much to absorb, consider and debate. A particular highlight for me was Martin Couzins’s brilliantly inspired story of a socially engaged organisation, crowdsourced from Twitter. If I had one critique it would be that there were a few too many presentations to start the day, although the content was consistently excellent and the speakers engaging and succinct.

There then followed a world cafe brainstorming session, after which the ‘grid’ was populated with topics for discussion, which would form the basis of the afternoon’s agenda. Many of these topics were inspired by the content that was presented in the morning session, exploring and expanding the debate further. Whilst  it is accepted and encouraged for people to move between groups if they wish to during the breakout discussions, both of the ones I attended in the afternoon were so interesting that I stayed in the same group for the whole session…quite unusual for me and a sign of the quality of discussion and debate that took place. Interesting too, that the topics being discussed no longer revolve purely around social media, but have moved on to include a wide range of HR and business related issues. That is most definitely a good thing!

The day was wrapped up by a review of the artwork, a fantastic song by artist in residence, Tim Casswell and a demonstration by Darius from the Spring of how you can use your physical strength to dissipate and deflect conflict. And then, of course, the conversations continued over a glass (or in my case a mug – thanks Charlie!) of wine.

Lots to think about and I have been extremely fortunate to have enjoyed two such stimulating and enjoyable conferences over the last two days. For me, ConnectingHR remains a great way to meet interesting people, enjoy stimulating debate, become enthused and energised, learn from others, share knowledge and make friends. That, most certainly, makes for a great day.

The first time I heard of ConnectingHR was as a hashtag on Twitter. At that point, I didn’t even know what a hashtag was, far less how to use one or what ConnectingHR involved. What did become clear though, over the next few days and weeks, was that this is a collection of HR  (and some non-HR!) people who engage with each other on Twitter and other social sites, meet up regularly in person, reach out to and welcome newcomers and are not only adept at understanding the power and possibilities of social media, but incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge and expertise.

The first time I met anyone from ConnectingHR was at the first unconference. Faces became familiar, friendships were formed, my concept of networking and HR conferences was transformed and a journey began which led to me starting this blog the very next day. In the 18 months since then, the community of ConnectingHR has grown and evolved and the unconferences and tweet-ups continue to be a brilliant way of getting to know people and starting to understand a little more about how social media can impact and influence HR and business as a whole. It’s also worth noting that most mainstream conferences which talk about social media in HR invariably include individuals from ConnectingHR as speakers, panelists and presenters…and most are rather more pricey than the actual ConnectingHR unconferences ;).

The next ConnectingHR unconference takes place on 16th May 2012 and you can buy a ticket here. Even better, if you are new to all this and haven’t been to an unconference before, I have a free ticket to give away on my blog. Just leave a comment at the end of this post, and I will choose a winner at random on Friday 27th April. Yep, it really is that easy…I’m nice like that.

For those that like a little more detail, the theme for the unconference is: The Power of a Socially Engaged Organisation and there are some fantastic and knowledgeable conversation leaders attending, addressing topics such as –

  • How can organisations embrace social media/strategies internally to increase engagement?
  • What are the positive benefits and opportunities of embracing social and community strategies in organisations?
  • What tools are there to help increase collaboration and conversation in organisations?
  • Can a more social business create commercial value and increase engagement?
  • What alternatives are there to the traditional employee survey?

If you are looking for an event where you can met some great people, interact, engage, challenge, debate and learn, then look no further…book your ticket for ConnectingHR today or see if you can win a free one on here.

Really…what are you waiting for?!


I have had a sore throat lately…metaphorically at least…and temporarily lost my blogging voice over the last few months. I’m happy to report that it seems to be well and truly back, due in no small measure to some of the brilliant people I have around me.

Whilst I was on holiday, my good friend Flora started her own blog (if you haven’t read it yet, you really should, it’s excellent) and what struck me most when reading it, is how her voice jumped off the page to me. Her voice, her style – undeniably, emphatically her. It reminded me of why I had started blogging and gave me some insight into how honest, personal blogs can be so rewarding and refreshing to read. It also inspired a little spark of recognition that I still have plenty to say and a voice and style of my own to articulate it in.

The other thing that struck me in reading Flora’s first post was the great way that she described her network – vibrant, full of varied, precious friends and family, people she loves and respects, people who she helps and who help her. That reminded me of the general fabulousness of the people that I am privileged to have become friends with through ConnectingHR and Twitter, as well as those who I have met through more conventional means.

And then, a chance conversation in Twitter with one such lovely friend of mine, Anthony Allinson, led to him emailing me some really thoughtful feedback on what he likes about my blog, things that have helped and inspired him and some ideas for future topics, should I feel like returning more regularly to the blogging fray. Reading his email not only lightened my heart, but somehow also had the effect releasing lots of ideas about future posts and musings and generally cheering me up and inspiring me no end. I was, and am, touched beyond measure that he had taken the time to think about me and about my blog and what would be helpful to move both of us forward. He will be blushing furiously by now, I know, so I will simply say that I am hugely appreciative of his consistent, understated kindness.

The lesson for me is that asking for and accepting help from friends, family and colleagues is not only OK, it is more often than not absolutely essential in order to continue to grow and develop. There is undoubtedly a fortuitous element of right words, right place, right time to all of this…but the simple fact is, you have to be open to being helped, as much as you are willing to offer and give it yourself. And it feels great…I shall be practising doing it more often!

So to Tony and Flora, thank you! Beers…or rather red wine, whiskey and cocktails…are on me :).

Christmas Eve is finally here…how very exciting!

Hard to believe that before this month, Ailsa Suttie was the only person to have guest posted on this blog…and rather a long time ago now at that! I can’t say enough good things about Ailsa, she is a warm and wonderful friend who will always fight your corner, support causes she believes in and get involved to make a difference.

You can find her at @AilsaSuttie…and anywhere where there is a bottle of red around ;).


When, asked by Alison to consider writing a guest post for this series, I looked back at the Highlights & Horrors of my HR life 2011 and although I could write about both a different emotion took over when I thought about you all.

If asked to describe it I would have to say the closest thing I could compare it with is that it was, well, ‘Christmassy’. A slow spreading feeling of warmth and well-being, a sense of all things being as they should.

In 2011 I have met some inspirational people, some challenging folk, been helped by some and have helped others. Like any group some don’t see eye to eye and these relationships also serve to strengthen and enrich our community. Life would be pretty bland if we all agreed, right?

I would like to thank the individuals who made my year special, you know who you are. To those I don’t know so well, I look forward to getting to know you better in 2012. I hope that where I have tried to help that I’ve managed to make a difference too.

To those of you who attempted to ruin my liver, I am sending you my bill from the Priory!

So, I am raising a virtual glass of mulled wine to you all, Merry Christmas and here’s to a very happy New Year, you rock!


So that’s it….or is it? Those of you that have been following the series of guest posts may have noticed that I haven’t written about my highlights and horrors yet…and I have had a couple of wonderful bloggers suggest that they may submit a post over the next few days. This is definitely it for the daily posts (phew!) but there may be one or two overflow posts between now and New Year’s Eve, so watch this space :).

All that really remains is to sincerely thank all of you who have written posts, read them and recommended them to others. What began as a fairly random idea has taken shape to be a powerful and wonderful experiment that I have absolutely loved facilitating. Truly, the response has been beyond my wildest dreams or maddest hopes…and that is totally because of you.

I wish you a very, very Merry Christmas!

Flora Marriott was one of the first people I met from the #connectingHR community and her laid back, positive energy and affirming, engaging actions make her such a pleasure to interact with both online and offline. Flora is also a not-so-secret HR and Learning and Development technical geek and is always happy and willing to share her knowledge, collaborate and help others. She is a star…if you don’t know her already, I wholeheartedly recommend that you find and follow her at @FloraMarriott.


It’s April 2011.  I’m in the frenetic city of Manila.   I’m standing in front of 50 employees.  It’s 5pm and their finish time.  Me and two others have been training this group in the web design principles that we are using in the UK.  I’m wrapping up.  

“That’s all for today folks, you’ve been great. Tomorrow we’ll look at selecting appropriate images for the UK culture….”  

 Blah blah blah.  

All of a sudden, the group of Philippine employees start yelling at me.  

“More, more, more!!!”   

Cue grins all round from the training team.  The employees are really yelling at Sam, not me, and I’m bursting with pride. He’s standing next to me (ok, I’ve changed his name).  I met him in May 2010 when he had a bit of a jack the lad reputation and was a data processor.  Here he is now, having delivered the bulk of the training sessions.  The employees love him.  He’s been up to 1am in the morning for four nights now, finishing off the training materials.  In front of the employees he is so articulate, passionate, confident, knowledgable.   This super group of charming Philippine people clamouring for more training, well, it’s a small incident, but it’s memorable for me as a symbol of the wonderful people that I’ve met and played a part in developing. 

My year kind of starts two years ago.  On January 19th 2010 the CEO of the company I worked for brought together a multidisciplinary team of 6, shut us together in a room and asked us to come up with a detailed plan for changing our company’s UK production to a completely new product.  Websites.  And from a standing start, we began in July 2010, and now, as I type, over 40,000 of these products have been produced. Although we were a subsidiary of a much larger company, this project turned us into a start-up in all but name.  We had to recruit and train hundreds of people, start things like wikis and employer employees to play an active part in the learning process, and we all had to learn very rapidly about the digital marketing world, and get a global production system up and running.  And with any start-up or very rapid change, you see people grow and do things they’d never imagined they’d do.  I can think of many people whose careers are now hugely the better for having been a part of this journey.  For example, graduates who’ve learnt new skills and who’ve now gone off to work at Amazon, Microsoft, and so on.  Altogether, it was enormous fun, very challenging, draining at times, and demanded a great deal of energy.  A proper roller coaster.  But a privilege to be a part of.   

I’ve left that company now – most of the support functions have been disbanded as part of a wider restructure in the parent company.  I’ll be looking for a new desk in the new year.  But I have so many positive emotions about my last year – above all, the amazing people I’ve met, and having been lucky enough to work for a fabulous manager who gave me an environment in which I could do my stuff and perform.  I’ve come away with some friends for life, more skills than I went in with, and the knowledge that the work I did was useful.  What more can a person ask for?!

My low? Oddly enough, it is right before that journey to the Philippines.  I was working crazy hard, stupid hours, living away from home during the week, juggling a lot of projects, and we’d had a few months of operational problems.  (Imagine, an HR team of 3 of which I was one, that is simultaneously having to manage lots of downsizing AND a bring in a whole new workforce.  A ratio of 3 HR folks, to at one point, about 700 employees).  A good friend phoned, the night before I was due to fly out, and I said I couldn’t meet up as I was too busy.  My friend was unimpressed at hearing my stressy voice, and told me how I’d got work right out of perspective in my life.  When I left the company, he said, there would come a time when no one would remember what I had done there.  Later on, I realised he was right.  But keeping life in balance all of the time is hard.  There always are times when we devote a disproportionate amount of energy to one aspect at the expense of another.  I think the important thing is to rectify it and not be lopsided all of the time.  

So I did….I took some time out this summer.  And that provided me with my second high point (Alison, am I allowed 2 high points?!!).  It was exactly a year on from my husband having a heart attack, and he was able to hike up a mountain pass, and achieve things he’d never dreamt possible a year ago.  I wrote about it here.   So now, when I go to work, I give it my all and I do try to be remarkable (a la Neil Morrison’s wise words), but now I never forget how it is people – dear family and cherished friends and the wonderful people I meet through my work – people, who truly enrich my life.

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