When I go to HR related conferences there are some themes that seem to pop up on a regular basis:

  • Big Data
  • The “War” for Talent (along with the occasionally seen term “War for Engagement”)
  • How to Get a “Seat at the Table” (with top executives)

What they have in common is ridiculous language. Also, except for the first one, these terms all come from the HR (or consulting) echo chamber and not from top executives.

I have decided not to attend any HR conference with “Big Data” in the title until there is a presenter that shows how her or his company used large data sets to improve their processes or show value. Period. There’s been more than enough talk about what “Big Data” might do in talent management. I do not doubt that some large companies are using it effectively in HR, but they are not sharing yet (which is up to them).

Using the term “war” for something other than the real thing is something that I find offensive. It is hyperbole that degrades the human toll of conflict. When people use the term it shows that they are more interested in hype than a real conversation. Do companies need to compete (sometimes fiercely) for talent? Absolutely. So, let’s talk about it in those terms, OK?

Lastly, whenever I hear HR say it wants a “seat at the table” is always comes off as whining. If senior management is not involving HR in critical decision making it means that they do not feel that HR is a critical part of the business because it is not showing value. In some cases it is because they never think HR can improve the business. In other cases it is because HR has not convincingly shows what it does for the bottom line. If the former, you can choose whether or not to try and change minds or go work where you feel appreciated. If the latter, you probably need to find out the questions the executive team wants answered. I don’t think there is a need for any more conference presentations on this, unless they are about how the situation was changed.

HR conferences can be valuable learning experiences (and a good place to network). However, they need to use better language and have topics that contribute to business effectiveness and people having a worthwhile experience at work.

For more information on effective HR practices, please contact Warren Bobrow at 310 670-4175.