Shaking the Foundation: An Interview With Kris Dunn The HR Capitalist

I have been following the work of Kris Dunn for a couple of years. I read alot of his blogs on The HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent. I watch his videos when I find them (this one on Raising Your HR Game is great. It was done with Tim Sackett, also someone to watch.) I read his presentations when I come across them. I recommend his blog to all my students and have a link to him on my blogsite (look down to the right). I am unabashedly a Kris Dunn fan. The reason? I think he is WHAT THE FUTURE OF HR NEEDS TO BE, only he is there today. (There are others in this arena and I will be trying to interview them as well. The first one I did was with Trish McFarlane.)
So without further ado here is the interview. It is worth reading every word.

MH: How did you “arrive” at HR? Fall in to it or seek it out? How and why?

KD: I fell into it. I was looking to relocate to the Southeast after working in market research consulting in St. Louis, and was working my limited network at the time. Some folks I had worked with in the past basically said, “Kris, we like you and want to hire you, but we don’t have anything in marketing. But, we think you’d be great for this HR Manager spot, and we don’t currently have anyone in mind for the job. Want to try that?”. And the rest, as they say, is history.

That just shows the power of the network and the fact that many jobs are closed without ever opening.

MH: You certainly incorporate social media into HR. How did you become a SM user? Any formal training or all by the seat of your pants?

KD: Seat of my pants. I think with any new tool you need a curiosity to learn, which I’ve always had. If you don’t have a curious nature, all the training in the world with any new tool isn’t going to matter, because you aren’t going to incorporate the tools into your life. I think that’s true with any new tool, and certainly with social media.

MH: Is there a “best” educational background for someone in HR?
KD: Something outside of HR. I’d say marketing, which is a skill that’s going to allow someone to think differently than many incumbents in the field of HR.

MH: Is there a “best” work background for someone in HR?
KD: Line management would be the best background – you’ve managed people and done well in that role. Marketing a close second.

MH: You come across as having a strategic point of view… how did you become “strategic” and how can others get there too?

KD: Read and think. I’ve read BusinessWeek and Fortune since I was 25. The more you read about general business strategy (Fortune) and execution (BusinessWeek), the more you think about the world outside of HR, which is probably required to even appear strategic. Also, go get an MBA at a real university. The school really doesn’t matter once you get down from Ivy League, what matters is that you’re involved in the subject matter in a case study method, which makes you think business first, HR second. I think you get strategic by thinking business first, HR fourth.

MH: You have expressed your opinion in the past that “status quo” HR is not going to make it in the future. What is your vision for the field of HR for the next 10 years? How does the field need to progress?
KD: It’s going to be a continued split between the talent managers (those that can recruit talent, then do cool stuff with that talent) and the administrators. Administrators will always be around, but they’ll have increasingly decreased significance as the ability to attract and leverage talent becomes the core skill set of the upscale HR Pro. (See Raising Your HR Game linked above.)

MH: Have any HR heros? Who in the field do you take as a role model.. if anyone?
KD: Can’t say that I have HR Heros, which is kind of sad. Some of the folks I’ve worked for in the past (Don Sykes, Marilyn Brooks, Lisa Bryant, Eric Freesmier) would certainly qualify from an HR perspective, but most of the heros I have are business and talent focused. I dig folks like Seth Godin and Michael Lewis for the big picture, and folks like Harry Joiner for the fact they’re brave enough to do things that others aren’t.

MH: You like sports both personally and as an HR blog topic. What lessons do you think all HR pros can learn from sports?
KD: I don’t write about sports because I like sports (although I do). I write about sports because it’s the most transparent industry related to all things talent. Whether it’s recruiting, succession, etc – you name the HR topic – you can find a transparent accounting of that topic in the sports world. It’s the best lens we have to talk about real examples in the talent industry.

Plus, I’d give it all up today if an NBA team called me up to work for 1/3 of what I make to be someone’s front office flunky. Believe that.

MH: Any words of wisdom for your fellow HR practioners?
KD: Do something from a project basis that feels like you might be risking your career in the next 6 months. You’ll feel alive, more passionate about what you do and this just in – you won’t really be risking your career – you’ll find that the people around you will be more supportive that you expected.

A little more information about Kris, taken from his bio.

Who am I? That’s an easy question. I’m the VP of People for DAXKO, a software company focused
on serving the best membership-driven organizations in America. Prior to joining the team at DAXKO in 2009, I was a VP of HR for SourceMedical, a Regional VP of HR for Charter Communications, a HR Manager for BellSouth Mobility (subsequently known as Cingular and AT&T; based on which round of consolidation you are referring to), and a Project Manager in the market research division of Aragon Consulting (gobbled up by IBM Global Services). With that track record in mind, I can now say what I thought I never would – I have over a decade in the HR biz.

A final word. You need to follow this man. He will be a major influencer in HR thought for decades to come. He is progressive, he is thoughtful, he is challenging, and he will shake your HR foundation if you let him. You will be the better person for it..

1 thought on “Shaking the Foundation: An Interview With Kris Dunn The HR Capitalist”

  1. Mike:

    Great interview. It's interesting about what Kris said about HR backgrounds. I am seeing more and more companies wanting HR to come in from other parts of the business, operations, marketing, finance, etc. (I just so happen to come from marketing!)

    I also agree that talent and admin are breaking up….just like finance and accounting ahd to do!

    Keep the interviews coming!

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