One Thursday night about two and a half years ago I was “messing about wasting time on Twitter” as my wife likes to call my online professional development. I stumbled across something with the hashtag #LEAD1201 which turned out to be some sort of experimental online leadership programme. I chipped in with a comment or two and was told I was very welcome to join the discussion.
Within a few weeks, it had morphed into NZLEAD and become a broader tweet chat about all things people-related and the rest is history. If you work in HR and you haven’t heard of NZLEAD whose backside has your head been up?
The two facilitators, Amanda Sterling and Tash Pieterse, were a breath of fresh air. With a dearth of New Zealand people professionals on Twitter at that time, I must admit I did kind of stalk them, professionally speaking. But they were fellow travellers who wanted to see change happen in our profession and were doing something different and proactive to make that happen. Within months I found myself giving one of them career advice and mentoring the other. And when I did something unheard of and publicly criticized our professional body, in the shit storm that followed their support was both public and 100% absolute even though there was a personal and professional impact for them too.
One of the most incredible aspects of this is that at this stage the two of them had never actually met in real life. Their friendship was entirely forged online.
Nearly three years on and the NZLEAD community, because community is exactly what it is, continues to be a place for people to gather, discuss, debate, challenge, learn and interact. Everyone is welcome and, unlike professional networking events, people don’t just talk to their friends or stand around in cliques. The professional and personal relationships forged through NZLEAD have been extraordinary and, in some cases, life changing. It’s impact and reach goes so much further than one hour every Thursday.
And now Amanda has captured that journey in a book. The Humane Workforce has been published this week and is a cracking read about how we can make the workplace more human based on the collective wisdom of over 300 NZLEAD participants from around the world. In typical NZLEAD style, the publication costs were crowd funded via a PledgeMe campaign. 90 people contributed to make it happen and others provided professional expertise free of charge. It was collaboration at it’s best and Amanda kept everyone up to date on progress all through the writing and publication process.
The book focuses on people, community and technology. In his foreword, Perry Timms describes this as “a perfect storm for us” and “an unnerving world for others.” And whether some people like to admit it or not, there are two camps emerging in the people field. Those who get it and those who don’t. I hope it is mainly the latter group who read this book.
Amanda’s message is simple, technology is changing the way we work and, if we let it, can make all our workplaces much more humane. Technology is a great leveller and Amanda makes the point that introverts are able to have more of a say using technology, where they have space to absorb information and think out their responses.
She talks about SME’s who are less bureaucratic and more open to the needs of individual employees and says that they are utilising technology really well but not letting it get in the way of “what’s really important: the people.” I am certainly seeing that in my own workplace and others I am working with.
Throughout the book Amanda talks about putting the human back into everything from HR, to learning and to recruitment. I did smile at the last one following last week’s post about a very poor recruitment experience with no human interaction.
Let me finish by quoting Amanda’s advice for HR. She makes the point very strongly that we are at a tipping point. We have a great many opportunities to be real leaders in our organisations “by getting back to the heart and soul of our organisation: the people.” She reminds us it’s more discomforting to let go of things than hold on to them. But let go of rigidity, risk aversion, unnecessary process and practices we must. And that’s not leading, that’s just surviving long term.
Your ongoing professional development will determine whether or not you survive or become an irrelevance in your own profession. You can start with simply the best book about HR you will read this year. The book is available here and the Kindle version here.