HR across the pond

One of the things that we often forget as British people, is how small our country is in relation to many in the world.  Even most of our near neighbours are bigger than us, despite our unwillingness to accept this.  We also have somewhat of a split personality –  we are Europeans but perhaps our closest neighbour and friend is America, a country that sits several thousand miles away from our shores.  As a quick confession, I should throw in that when I travelled to the US last Friday it was for the first time.  I’ve never really had any inclination to go there in the past, but the difference this time was the attendance at HRevolution.

Now the fug and haze has gone away from the event, now that I’ve had time to reflect, what do I take away? I’m not going to be able to compete with the many wonderful posts being written on the event itself, but there are some things that struck me when I look at my US colleagues compared to those in the UK.

– Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was that we are having many of the same conversations.  There is a huge amount of management literature coming out of the US (as I write this I’m sitting in a dorm room at HBS, one of the major culprits) and I guess I wrongly assumed that US practitioners would be streets ahead of the UK in the way that they practiced. They’re not.  US HR pros are dealing with the same struggles, the same frustrations and the same obstacles as practitioners in the UK.  Whether I’m relieved or disheartened by this I’m yet to work out.

– On the plus side, I think there is an absolute belief from everyone that I met that HR and HR professionals CAN make a difference and regardless of which side of the pond we work, there is an absolute business benefit to be achieved from great, aligned, focussed and down to earth people interventions.  How far people are down that path is more dependent on the quality of that individual and the appetite of their business than it is the country, state or county that they come from.

– We all have frustrations with our professional bodies, but we’re all working to improve them.  One of the great things that I took away was that SHRM were actively involved in supporting and sponsoring HRevolution.  Could the CIPD play such a role in the future? I would certainly like to think so.  Not only would it add to their credibility, but it would show that they are willing to open up their doors (and wallets) to non-CIPD events that helped to grow the profession.

– We lack a bit of cool and swagger.  I know that I was with a select group of HR pros and that those that attend Hrevolution are smarter than the average bear, but there was a confidence in the HR people who I don’t see in similar events in the UK.  Is this a general US vs UK factor? I don’t know, I’ll have to work that one out over time.  But if we could get it to rub off on us a little then I don’t think it would be a bad thing.

 What else did I take away? Well a whole load of great new friends and contacts.  A sense of energy and excitement and a real curiosity to learn and cooperate more with my friends and colleagues across the pond, to see how we can continue to make progress in our practice and in the profession as a whole.  And for that I am truly grateful.  I can’t list the people who I want to thank as there would be far too many and no-one would get to the end of the list (think the movies). Without exception everyone I met was exceptional. The organisers were amazing and the entertainment…..unusual.

Given the chance I’ll be back as soon as I can.

6 comments

  1. Ben Eubanks · May 3, 2011

    It was fantastic to meet you, Neil! I am thrilled that you were able to come, and I think it’s interesting that we share some of the same struggles and challenges. The event was definitely better with your unique perspectives added in.

    Maybe one day I’ll be able to make it over to your neck of the woods and we can have some deep discussions about making this profession better!

    • Neil · May 9, 2011

      Ben, great to finally meet you and the family too. If you ever make it this way let me know and I’ll take you up on the deep discussion!

  2. Dave "theHRCzar" Ryan · May 3, 2011

    Neil it was great to meet you and the three other dudes from across the pond. You comments are very insightful. I had become familiar with the CIPD in researching a post I wrote on Michael Carty’s sight.

    We were fortunate to have you guys trip over for the event. It is so cool that this was your first trip to the states and you attended HRevolution.

    I look forward to more posts from you and you peeps!

    • Neil · May 9, 2011

      Thanks Dave and likewise. One thing is certain, I will be making a return trip.

  3. Michael Carty · May 3, 2011

    Hi Neil

    A really good post on what sounds to have been an absolutely outstanding event!

    Just wanted to chip in on your point about the “cool,” “swagger” and “confidence” of the US HR people that you encountered. I think this is indeed a “US vs UK factor,” as you suggest.

    Our US chums are generally extremely warm, upbeat, welcoming and “can do” in a way that just isn’t that commonly seen back over here in the UK.

    Way, way back when, I studied for a semester at a US university. I was consistently amazed by how great the people were, and like you always thought that “if we could get it to rub off on us a little then I don’t think it would be a bad thing.”

    Great post, and I sincerely hope that I too can make it over to a future HRevolution event!

    Michael

    • Neil · May 9, 2011

      You were missed my friend. Agree that this is probably a US thing, I’m hoping that maybe a little bit of the magic might have stayed with me. I’ll tell you later today!

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