What the HECK is DisruptHR?

It was a DisruptHR week in our household which means  Greg had to be extra calm and patient because I was slightly pre-occupied planning a party for over two hundred people.  Truth time.  DisruptHR isn't a party but it feels like one to me.  People ask me, "What's DisruptHR?"

There is the stock answer you can find on DisruptHR about being an information exchange for people in the HR field.  But that's not the whole picture, it's not the whole truth.  The event series began that way and technically the description is accurate, but it misses the heart of what our #DisruptHRYEG event has metamorphosed into.  I have told many people over the last two years that DisruptHR has a life of its own which I can't quite explain.  Having gone through our third event, I think I might have identified the secret sauce and I'm willing to share it with you for free!


Everyone longs for hope, for some indication that maybe we can do better, be better, create better.  We want that in our personal lives and we yearn for it in our work.  As much as we may want some hope in our lives, we often don't know where to go to get a dose and most of what we hear encourages us to absorb the idea that things are hopeless.  Just yesterday I came across a headline Women will wait 217 years for pay gap to close.  For the past few weeks we have been watching the unfolding of story after story of abuse of power, sexual abuse, and harassment in the movie industry.  I realized last week that DisruptHR at least Edmonton's version of the event is giving people from all sectors, generations, and levels of experience a little dose of hope twice a year.

Just a few of the volunteers who helped make DisruptHRYEG 3.0 possible..
One of our attendees described it that way in a personal note they sent to me the day after.  They said it "gave me hope" that we can make change happen.  I believe we can.  Everyone of us can.  It may be in very small ways.  Maybe the one and only person we can influence is ourselves.  That's okay.  Get off your duff and make a commitment to show up for your life as your best self.  If the pay gap pisses you off, don't wait 217 years - you'll be dead.  Look for your next opportunity, create your opportunity.

Energy & Engagement

DisruptHRYEG is all about opportunities.  We chose early on to include rookie speakers along with others who were more accomplished and everything in between.  We run the risk someone might not be stellar, but we also open a window of opportunity creating a real sense of energy and engagement at our events.  When you walk into an Edmonton DisruptHR you walk into a room of positive energy where people are engaging one another in conversations they would never have had otherwise.

We decided when we launched our first event to make an effort to personally welcome as many of our attendees as possible.  The approach was appropriate since I had invited all my friends and family to the first event!  But as the event has grown we worked to maintain the personal approach and it has contributed to the energy and engagement you feel when you walk in the room.

The energy and engagement fuels how the crowd responds to the speakers.  Our speakers get a solid round of applause no matter what lines were tripped over, because the crowd recognizes it takes courage and balls to get up on that stage.  Humans typically are more energized and engaged when they feel safe, when the atmosphere is free of judgement, and when others are cheering them on.  


In an environment filled with energy and engagement of the good variety, people flourish and are better able to form community.  At the end of Wednesday's event an attendee told me, "I've spoken to so many different people and it didn't feel like networking at all." 

News flash - it didn't feel like networking because it wasn't networking.  What happened was that attendee felt like part of a community.  Elsie Elford, one of our speakers talked about community and engagement and our longing for those things.  As I listened to Elsie, I understood quite clearly that one of the reasons DisruptHR
  YEG has been successful is because we all want to be part of a community that makes a difference.

Our events have attracted unlikely combinations of attendees which I love.  Attendees have included executive leaders, lawyers, academics, students, HR professionals, business owners...you name it.  There is no separation.  Once you walk through the doors, you are simply another individual who has chosen to be part of a movement.  It is equalizing.  

Everyone is important in our DisruptHR community.  We rely on speakers who are willing to speak for free, sponsors who will put their money on the table with the realization that they can't pitch or sell directly, volunteers who take on duties because they want to, and attendees who are raving fans and spread the news. Before every event, I receive notes from people who have attended past events but will be out of town and miss the current one.  Even those who are away, want to communicate their support and I value that support tremendously.  

Posing for Nana - the Disrupt Lady
The Edmonton DisruptHR community is unbelievable.  However, that does not mean homogenous, neither is it closed.  New people are welcome and we will continue to grow the event.  We want you to bring new ideas and challenge existing one.  We need our community to reflect the real world, not just one sector.  Our community can do its best, most disruptive work when we welcome dialogue and challenge.


I believe the work of DisruptHRYEG is to push, pull, rearrange, deconstruct, and build the foundation of our knowledge about working with one another.  Although speakers only have five minutes to present, they usually manage to throw in what one attendee called "nuggets".  Nuggets are those little slivers of an idea that sit with you afterward.  The turn of the phrase.  A slightly different twist on an old idea.  Possibly what you heard as a personal challenge. A nugget might be the statistic a speaker dropped into their speech that made you sit up and take notice.  If you attend a DisruptHR in Edmonton and fail to take home at least one knowledge nugget, well you must have been asleep.

What the heck is DisruptHR?  The secret sauce is wrapped up in the acronym HECK.  Well, that's it in a blog.  Based on my observations of three events, DisruptHR in Edmonton is Hope, Energy & Engagement, Community, and Knowledge.  If you have ever attended a DisruptHR anywhere in the world, what words would you use to describe it?