The HREvolution: An Interview with Trisha McFarlane- Part I

On May 7th and 8th a group of Human Resources and Recruiting “thought leaders” will meet in Chicago to discuss the future of the profession of Human Resources. This will not be an academic conference with names like Ulrich in attendance. This meeting is billed at an “Un-conference” and includes names like McFarlane, Eubanks and Ruettimann. The second meeting of HREvolution will be made up mostly of HR bloggers, tweeters and practioners who are interested in discussing how HR can fundamentally progress from the current state of the field.

I had the opportunity to interview “Thought Meister” Trish McFarlane who was the creator of the idea of HREvolution and I asked her some questions about the why and wherefor of HREvolution. This is Part I and Part II will appear tomorrow.

MH: You are the creator of HRevolution, so when people ask you what is HRevolution, what do you tell them?

TM: You know, we have this great description online that sounds all “official”. Here’s what HRevolution means to me personally. HRevolution is for ME, it’s for YOU. It’s an event that brings together not just like-minded HR and recruiting professionals, it also brings us closer to those people who do not think like us. It’s true purpose is networking and collaborating with some of the thought leaders in our industry. And the real beauty of it for me is that no one is excluded. Everyone pays their own way from the planning committee to speakers to participants. We’re all the same. That is how I know that people really come for the right reason. It’s not about collecting swag from a booth. It’s about making connections and friendships with people you respect. And, the participants are the most generous you’ll find. We have so many people paying for others who are out of work just so they can come and network too. It’s about being part of the HR/ Recruiting family.

MH: What was the genesis of HRevolution?
TM: The idea came out of the frustration of working (at the time) for a company that would not pay for conferences. Most conferences cost thousands of dollars to get in, then you have hotel, food, and travel costs on top of that. I wanted to attend one so badly, but didn’t have the money. So, I tweeted out:

“Think we should plan a #HR blogger conference. 1 day. Blog specific learning/sharing. @beneubanks @theredrecruiter @stelzner @lruettimann”

From there, Ben Eubanks came up with the name of HRevolution and we were on our way. We quickly added Steve Boese, Mike Owcarz, and Crystal Peterson to the planning committee. Mike eventually had to step out when he and his wife welcomed a new baby, but he was there in spirit. It was great to see what strangers could come together to create based solely on the trusting relationships we developed on Twitter and through blogging.

MH: What is the nature of the discussions at HRE? Does it look like a SHRM conference?
TM: That’s a great question. Many of us, including me, are SHRM members, but it is not like a SHRM conference. You’ll find the venues we choose are meant to be really comfortable, almost like you’re coming over to a friend’s house for a dinner party. BUT, the discussions are the key. You will find some serious discussions on every possible topic that affects HR and recruiting. Some sessions become quite heated, there may be debating, there may be a lot of agreement. We just never know. What I can promise is that you will not sit through even one PowerPoint presentation. You WILL be part of the conversation on the topics you choose. I left the last HRevolution feeling like I learned more in one day than I had in years.

MH: Who did you try to get attend HRE?
TM: Well, we may be a grassroots effort with no marketing budget, BUT we exploit social media to do our initial outreach. We use blogs, Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn to spread the word initially. Then, our past participants jumped in and started to tell their networks. This time we also strongly encouraged the people in the online HR and recruiting community to reach out to friends and colleagues in the industry who are not using social media. At this HRevolution, you will begin to see more of a mix in our participant base. Ideally, that will continue.

MH: I believe HRE is filled up, for those of that didn’t attend will any material be available from HRE?
TM: For those who cannot attend this time, we are going to be as creative as we can. We have plans to film portions of various sessions and eventually share those on the HRevolution site ( Also, you will see many blog posts coming out after the event. We may even have a white paper or case study develop from the event. It really depends on what direction the participants take it. It’s very exciting.

Tomorrow: Part II

1 thought on “The HREvolution: An Interview with Trisha McFarlane- Part I”

  1. I have no idea what would have happened if I hadn't spurred the movement on the day after that tweet went out, but I'm thrilled with how far things have come. I immediately went out and built a website to promote the idea, and Trish and I started talking seriously about it shortly afterward.

    Wow, it seems like SO long ago!

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