The HR Juggler

Posts Tagged ‘ConnectingHR

networking

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!

 

 

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?!

 

 
Today’s blog post is rather a treat, not least because the lovely Emma (@onatrainagain) is an experienced, talented writer who is currently taking time out from her own very fabulous blog. It has been my pleasure to meet Emma in person during 2011 and she is huge fun to interact with, both online and via Twitter.  I have certainly benefited from at least one of her breakthroughs this year!
 
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Thanks very much to Alison for asking me to write a guest blog for her themed advent calendar this year. I have been known to have my own blog but due to work and study commitments, this is currently gathering dust while I focus my attention elsewhere. I’m sure normal service will resume again next summer, but until then, I shall make the most of being given the opportunity to pen guest blogs whenever I am privileged enough to be asked.

I try very much not to get fixated on the end of one year and the start of another. After years of having resolutions and failing most of them, I have quickly learnt that a fear of failure leads me to avoid them in the first place. This is an obstacle in some ways but in others it actually provides me with the focus that I need in order to work out what I want to achieve and how I will do it. Because it’s not a New Year whim, I find that I am more likely to be successful. I avoid making changes on 1 January because I don’t ‘get’ the concept of it but I can easily see why it might be a good driver for others. All it does for me is bring back the cringe worthy moments as a child singing Auld Lang Syne with my drunk relatives (yes, that really was as bad as it sounds).

Because I am studying at the moment, during the past 18 months I have very much focused on my own personal development. This has been quite difficult at times because I felt like I’d lost my mo-jo. The only issue for me was that getting my mo-jo back wasn’t as simple as when Dr Evil stole Austin Powers’ and it being later retrieved from a test tube.

During the course of the year I have had two major breakthroughs and although they may seem quite trivial to some, they are actually massive achievements for little old me.

First up is my overwhelming fear of networking. For years I have avoided any networking like the plague. This is for a number of reasons but top of my list was that I thought people wouldn’t like me, plain and simple. My line manager has spent a lot of time trying to convince me that when you turn up at networking events, people will rarely turn their back on you and/or deliberately not talk to you. It’s irrational when I think back to earlier this year when I was brave enough to grace the Connecting HR unconference with my presence. I still remember how I felt now. The nerves didn’t hit me until I was on the train there, at which point I felt so unwell that I thought of just getting the next train home. However, the attendees couldn’t have made me feel more welcome and although it hasn’t completely cured my daftness, I won’t be quite so reluctant next time to attend such an event.

Secondly, I have addressed a deep-seated internal habit of trying to be perfect – constantly. When I say that out loud, I wonder how on earth I didn’t send myself into an early grave just trying to keep it up. After a mini melt-down in the spring, I took some time to reflect and realised that by expecting perfect, I would never achieve it. I don’t think perfect exists and before now I have not been able to work that one out. Okay, I am a bit slow but at least I finally got there. For now, I am trying to be more content with being ‘good’ or ‘very good’. Sad but true, though I’m sure I’m not alone.

So, whilst these things may not be huge, or you may take them for granted, I have made two very big changes in my life. For that I am grateful as now I feel like I’ve taken some large steps towards meeting some of my personal goals.

On a final note, I would like to wish you all a wonderful time over the festive period. I have lots of university work to get through and won’t be partying, so please raise a glass for me and keep your fingers crossed that in May I pass this year and FINALLY I will be fully CIPD qualified. That’ll be another goal to cross off my very long list :).

I’m not keen on networking. I’m often ambivalent at best about a lot of other HR people. So developing an HR network was never going to be easy or enjoyable, right?

Well, here’s the thing that still seems to be broadly unknown in HR circles: there is a fantastically social and sociable network of HR professionals known as ConnectingHR. And anyone in HR or a related field can be part of it.

We connect via Twitter using the #connectinghr hashtag and we interact on the connectinghr.org website. We hold regular drinks (known as tweet-ups), there are informal, interactive conferences (known as Unconferences) and there are a huge number of informal get-togethers in-between times: lunches, drinks after works, coffee, breakfast meetings…

Without exception, the people I have met through ConnectingHR are engaged, passionate, approachable, knowledgable, generous, helpful, influential, encouraging, committed and likeable. Many have become true friends in a relatively short space of time and they are a superb professional network, who share knowledge, support each other, debate ideas and inspire with their energy to make HR better.

ConnectingHR is only just beginning and is destined to grow much further. Be a part of it, wherever in the world you are based…check out http://www.connectinghr.org or #connectinghr on Twitter and say hello…I guarantee you’ll get plenty of hellos back and much more besides :).

 

 
In October 2010 when the first ConnectingHR Unconference took place, I had only been on Twitter for about 3 weeks. I wasn’t at all sure whether or not to go, but I took a chance, mostly because I thought there was not much to lose and it might help me to develop my professional network. As it turned out, it was a real turning point for me professionally and personally and was an amazing day and led to me becoming part of an incredibly supportive, down-to-earth, pragmatic HR community.

The second ConnnectingHR Unconference takes place on Thursday 5th May and you can book your place here.

So why go? Why bother?  What’s in it for you to stir your stumps and do something different, take a chance like I did?

  • You’ll meet some great people. Interesting, engaged, passionate, knowledgeable, helpful, welcoming, interested, social and sociable, who will be delighted to accept you into their professional network. It’s a fantastic network to be part of. If you’re in any doubt (or perhaps even just curious!), check out the attendee list
  • You’ll experience different and more social ways of interacting in large groups: whether it is the world cafe or pecha kucha presentations or simply the freedom of wandering from one brainstorming session to the next, it will challenge you to think and behave and interact differently and give you ideas to try within your workplace
  • You’ll be inspired to try something different and experiment with making changes in how you do things. The first Unconference led to me starting my own blog the very next day. Believe me, I never saw that one coming!
  • You’ll learn something (and most likely many things!) you didn’t already know

For me the Unconference is special and a great opportunity to network, share experiences and learn. The second one has a lot to live up to…but I am certain it will be everything that the first one was and more. 

I’ll be there…..and hope very much that you will be too

What does community mean to you? Where do you experience a sense of belonging?

I think I am perhaps unusual in that I still live in the same town that I grew up in and that all of my extended family (parents, both my brothers and their families and my parents-in-law) live within a 2 mile radius of my home. My children go to the same primary school that I went to as a child, and one of their teachers also taught my brother there 30 years ago. Two of my children’s three cousins also attend the same school and the connections become ever more intertwined: my daughter’s best friend is the sister of my niece’s very close friend; the mum of a child coming to tea with us tomorrow was taught by my mum in a local secondary school many years previously. I understand that to some people this may seem claustrophobic, but I love it and I love the true sense of community I get from continuing to be involved in the school and the local area.

I also love that I have a close supportive network of family and friends; my mum and mother-in-law help me out hugely with childcare and I have made many friends, some old and long-standing, others much newer, who live in and around the local area. I go to the same church I attended as a child and many of the older generation remember me as the 5 year old that my daughters now are. Visiting the library and the local leisure centre also, rather inexplicably, make me feel very connected to the local community.

We talk a lot about community and sometimes I think we are in danger of diluting the real sense of the word behind it. For me, community is powerful and strong, it is unconditional and accepting, it binds and centres you. It is lasting and real and plays a large part in defining who you are.

There is a much newer community that I also feel part of; tentatively, gradually strengthening its bonds and defining its relevance for those that are part of it…and that is ConnectingHR. It is early days and I would not yet put it anywhere near the level of the things above, and yet it is real and vibrant, it connects people who genuinely support and trust and help eachother….and it is only just beginning. All communities start somewhere and, if nurtured, will grow, develop and strengthen. I for one want to be a part of that.

What communities are you part of? I’d love to know what real community means to you.


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