And it was a really great night. In some ways, I had even more fun than at last year’s event as I didn’t have the worry about whether I’d be included in the listings or not - HR Magazine have changed the criteria they’re using to choose their Most Influentials to limit this to university based academics.
Let me deal with this first as I do think this limitation is a bit daft. HR practitioners aren’t the most avid consumers of academic research. Even I hadn’t ever heard of most of the academics on the lists – including Patrick Flood at Dublin - #3 international HR thinker, and David Denyer at Cranfield - #1 UK HR thinker! - what? I’ve nothing against David (how could I have when I’ve never heard of him) but I’m pretty sure that if I’ve never come across him, then you won’t have done either. So that’s got to limit his influence don’t you think?
I also think the split between university based academics and non-university based consultants is a bit petty. A lot of university professors do more consulting than I do and I bet that I do more training than most of them do lecturing. OK, they may do more research, but I do some of this too. I sometimes call myself an ‘independent academic’ as this seems to nicely summarise a lot of the work that I do. Who’s to say I don’t have just as much informed influence on HR as someone from Ashridge or Cranfield etc?
I won’t go on about influence being increasingly based in social media. Partly because this is pretty self evident (as you’re reading this) and partly because I’ve been there quite a few times before. I am surprised, however, that the two types of influence haven’t yet started coming together more. There were a few more people tweeting last night than 12 months before, but they were mostly just doing this to congratulate the top influentials. And David Denyer is on Twitter too, but with just 20 or so followers, I don’t think this is how his influence has spread.
I will just note that I was pleased to received a lot of unexpected praise on my blogging activities. But I was also criticised for not being sufficiently challenging / opinionated / unguarded. I still don’t know if that’s my thing so I’m not going to refer to any of the HR Directors’ affairs that were the focus of a lot of the conversation last night. Other than to say that there seem to be an awful lot of them.
I was especially pleased to get some good feedback from the one academic very few people would argue with being seen as a most influential (now with a lifetime achievement award): Dave Ulrich.
I really wanted to chat to Dave firstly to check that he has been reading my posts (at least those mentioning him), which he has. And secondly to check that I’ve not crossed any red lines in my criticism of him. I didn’t think I had, and I do try to ensure that I only ever criticise ideas, not people - though I have probably strayed away from this ideal on occasion - with Ulrich and other academics too (especially John Boudreau; Peter Cappelli and probably Lynda “My book’s number one in Japan” Gratton too). Whoops, just did it again!
Anyway, Dave did seem happy enough with my criticism, and also with the other content you’ll find on here, commenting that whereas many academics have actionable ideas but no influence I have the opposite of that, or something - actually I’m sure he said something even more positive than this, but despite my rather drunken pleas and offers of more champagne etc, my witnesses to the remark were unable to remember any more of what had been said than me.
I didn’t think of asking Dave about what he thinks of the ‘imagine me as the next Ulrich’ thing. Perhaps next time…
Sorry but I’m not really sure what the point of this post is, but it is what it is.
Before I finish with it, I’d also like to note that I don’t think it’s all the academics’ fault that they’re not better known. Yes, most of them could learn good lessons from Dave Ulrich about how to engage with the HR practitioner community.
But HR professionals should be better read than most of you are! (Well done for reading my blog though!).
The media shares some responsibility for this too – so I suppose I should say ‘well done’ to HR Magazine for finding a way of giving the most influential1 HR professors more exposure.
Also, despite all the comments I’ve made above, and even more so my more unguarded ones last night, I do think HR Magazine have come up with a really useful and I’m sure very valid list.
I also need to reflect on my own role as part of the HR media and probably need to accept that I have fallen behind with my academic reading - so I resolve to improve on that starting this week. And if any of the most influential HR thinkers want to talk to me about their key academic insights, I’ll commit to helping them spread their ideas by sharing these with you here.
For example, from talking to Patrick Flood, his key thing is research showing that HR does impact financial results, but does so though long, complex and difficult to disentangle chains of cause and effect. And the impact isn’t that high, eg compared to things which are closer to the bottom line like quality of customer service etc. So there you go – now you know!
Finally, thanks to Sian Harrington and HR Magazine for the invite to the event – particularly as I wasn’t up for anything. And to Tim Pointer for the photos – much appreciated! See you all next year?
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