Today (I think….I’ve totally lost track of the days and time zones), I’m heading back to the states after 5 stupendous days in Sydney, Australia. I made the trip (my first time down under) in order to attend the HR Innovation and Tech Fest where I spoke at two sessions (including one with my friend Amy Cropper from Amazon), did a podcast with the folks from Future Knowledge, provided a bit of assistance to the event organizers as a Chairperson, and just generally got to talk about HR and HR Tech for 2 1/2 days. I also got to spend some quality time with my friends at HROnboard; I serve on their Advisory Board and it was great to hang out in person.

Although I didn’t take the time to write any blog posts as the conference was occurring, I did jot down some random thoughts on my iPhone as events unfolded:

  • The weather is glorious; I think around 80 degrees Farenheit but I’m not quite sure because everything is quoted in Celsius and, of course, we never learned that system in school
  • Australia has really cool currency/bills. With women on the bills too; and not just the Queen which, of course, they sort of have too.  There’s a lesson or something in here for the US….#HarrietTubman
  • These Aussies love their coffee. This java is so damn good I haven’t even missed Community Coffee (with chicory) like I usually do when I take a trip away from home
  • In Australia and New Zealand, HR professionals have responsibility for payroll. They call it “Remuneration” which makes it sound simultaneously a hell of a lot sexier and much less painful
  • The liberal use of curse words and profanity by speakers seems to not only be OK but somewhat expected. (HR folks in the US would be clutching their pearls and writing scathing comments on the session review feedback sheets…)
  • Numerous partner/vendor booths Expo Hall served coffee with a private barista on hand to whip up one’s favorite. My request for a plain black coffee (“Americano”) was met with much skepticism
  • Each concurrent session rooms not only has water (with proper glasses) but also giant bowls with gummi candies/lollies
  • Had a conversation on Day 1 with a young HR professional who recently started with his organization. His office mates are middle-aged complacent HR ladies who (a) tell him he’s working too hard (b) dissuade him from proposing new ideas because “that just won’t work.”  He loves human resources but is, already, feeling beaten down by the naysayers….in his own office/profession! (Hmmmmm…I had this precise conversation with a young HR pro in New Orleans not that long ago too….)
  • Taxi Cabs in Sydney have a sign prominently displayed that states “You WILL be photographed; conversations may be recorded.”
  • This is a very sensibly run conference; Day 2 sessions start at the civilized hour of 8:45 AM (with ‘Arrival Tea and Coffee’ at 8 AM); none of this 7 AM ‘sunrise session’ crap like so many HR events in the US
  • Had a conversation on Day 2 with an HR leader about their continuing evolution of user adoption; they implemented a new HCM solution a few years ago and are still struggling with (1) ensuring employees access self-service (instead of walking into HR and expecting to drop off paper forms or asking to get a print out of their pay stub (sounds familiar; am I right?!?), and (2) finding ways to keep their managers involved and completing workflow tasks.  We had a good chat about finding ways to promote what I like to call “forced adoption.”
  • Break time refreshments mean tea, coffee (yes!!) and bite-sized yummy things; today we had custard tarts with currants (heavenly). Conference break-time refreshments in the US, on the other hand, means Cokes, giant chocolate chip cookies, and ginormous pretzels with mustard and cheez sauce
  • Interesting to see familiar vendors with different signage and options; I also love seeing vendors with offerings totally unique to this market
  • Mid-way through day two and I finally figured out how to make my own flat white at one of the espresso/coffee machine stations in the Expo Hall!! Excited!
  • The delegates at this conference are incredibly focused, eager to learn, and incredibly ready to move HR forward. Such incredible passion for moving past the status quo and embracing the ‘way we work’ today.
  • Yes; I did dance in the Expo Hall while some guy who was on “The Voice” played a Rolling Stones tune. I just hope there was no camera footage

Fin.

********

Well…not really The End.  More like The Beginning.

There was talk about innovation in practices; finding new ways to work and optimizing our work. And yes, while there was lots of chatter about AI and robots (and a few jokes about HR + blockchain), for the most part the focus rested upon the use of automation to increase efficiency and ….. here’s the key part ….. keeping humanity in HR.

I find it interesting, over these last 12-18 months, how many more conversations we’re having about re-engineering (reverse engineering?) our processes, workflows and interactions with candidates, applicants and employees to bring back the human touch. This conference? We talked about it a lot. 

And a few final thoughts:

  • There is a lack of A/C in Sydney. Oh sure, the ocean breeze feels wonderful and everything but some of these shops could use a bit of cooling air
  • Food, in general, is less sweetened than the garbage we eat in the US. I especially noticed this in breakfast jam, sour cream, muffins and bread
  • I tried vegemite for breakfast one day and it was loathsome
  • Brothels are legal in NSW. I discovered this when I was perusing a newspaper and read the job adverts
  • I had to search quite a bit to find a carbonated beverage a.k.a. Diet Coke
  • My day trip to Manly Beach with my pals Amy Cropper and David D’Souza was amazing! We took the ferry, ate prawns for lunch, climbed up a cliff to look out over the ocean, and got up close and personal with water dragons and an Echidna
  • I managed, quite successfully, to sample as many wines from Australia and New Zealand as I could manage. There are many more to go however … so I guess I’ll have to come back to wrap things up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dispatches from Oz – #HRTechFest
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