Lessons I learned at HRPA2015

Lessons I learned at HRPA2015

HRPA2015-Scott-StrattenFor me, one of the big take-aways from HRPA2015 was the need to look at challenges and opportunities from new perspectives. I found the most interesting sessions were the ones where the speakers challenged the audience to shake things up.

Here’s my attempt to summarize some of the messages and questions that resonated strongest with me, I hope they inspire you:

In addition to my key take-aways, you can also see a list of keynote speakers we interviewed here, and we’ll be posting those videos on our YouTube channel throughout the month.

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Many organizations say they want to be more innovative, but few are actually creating a culture that encourages creativity.

Are they changing the way they do things? Are they changing their hiring practices and hiring people who don’t fit the typical mold, or continuing to hire the same type of people?

If they are hiring new breeds of people, are those new employees actually given the space for trial and error? As an organization you need to be willing to fail if you want to innovate and become world-class. Are we spending too much time telling employees all of the things they can’t do instead of encouraging them to challenge the status quo?

How is HR contributing to innovation? In order to bring fresh ideas, the inputs need to change. HR needs to continuously get outside of their comfort zone. HR professionals should be attending non-HR conferences and networking with people who are in other areas besides HR.

If you surround yourself with like-minded people, your ideas will never stretch beyond the normal. People who change the world try far more ideas than those who don’t.

If you struggle with how to recruit innovators, get creative. Research shows it’s not about the money, they want autonomy & meaning in their work.

Creating Effective Teams

How does your organization create teams? Do you look for diversity or just people who get along?

Some healthy conflict in teams is needed, different personality types are going to have different views and that’s where innovation happens. 

The Workplace

The workplace must continue to evolve to help people reach their potential. Where do employees have their best ideas, when are they in “flow?” Usually not sitting at their desks, we need to offer more flexible workplaces.

There are still too many silos in most organizations, which are contributing to inefficiencies. There needs to be more knowledge sharing & collaboration. HR can spearhead this shift.


HR is tracking a lot more data, but this is only helpful if you’re doing something with the data. What type of story is the data telling? What patterns and meaning is emerging?

You may need to take a step back, are the right questions being asked? The data may appear to tell one thing, but through deeper analysis you may find it is actually telling a different story. If you’re looking for new insight, the key is to explore unusual connections.

Employee surveys are critical for diagnostics but make sure that you’re asking the questions in the right way to get honest feedback. Remember: data tells you the “what” not the “why.”

Collecting employee feedback needs to be ongoing, don’t wait for exit interviews and this doesn’t need to be about always doing a formalized survey.

Information Overload

The biggest issue for HR is not time but attention. Everyone is competing for your attention. It is so important to be clear about priorities and own it. Spend time on the tasks that really matter and don’t get drawn into activities that are taking away your focus. Work smarter instead of harder.

Those are my key learnings. If you were there, I’d love to hear yours. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

I also interviewed several of the keynote speakers while I was at HRPA2015. We’re posting those interviews on our YouTube Channel. You can view the first one here, with Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing and UnSelling, talking about how HR is marketing. There is a list of who I interviewed here. Subscribe to our blog to get an email when we post new videos from the conference.



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