Part 2 of 2 - Sharing is good for business. Ambrosia Vertesti, Global VP Human Resources at Hootsuite, and I sat down to talk about how open source models are spreading to human resources and other, non-code parts of business today. In part one, I strove to understand HR's needs, terminology, and perspective and what drew Ambrosia and her peers to open source. In part two, our conversation moves on to how open source values like sharing and contribution are helping human resources and a lot more about #HROS.
"The How isn't competitive intelligence. That should be baseline."
I learned about the #HROS movement watching Ambrosia and Lars Schmidt co-present the keynote address at LinkedIn's 2015 Talent Connect conference. Check that video out!
Interview video - 22 min.
#HROS - Sharing The How
The sharing and contributing aspects of #HROS--the stuff that makes it "open source"--came about out of necessity, just like so many open source software projects and tools. When she was hired as the 20th employee, Ambrosia was the sole HR person at Hootsuite and she was responsible for four other departments ... Welcome to startups! She lacked time and resources and turned to her network for help. "I was in Vancouver. We weren't in the epicenter of innovation and startups. We were in a place that the ecosystem was just growing around us. We needed to collaborate. I was empowered by our founder to take risks and find a different way to do HR. This was my opportunity to see if this thing is real!"
"It started out of necessity and being empowered to take a risk. That was me reaching out to people. 'I'm the only person here. I'm trying to find a way to do things.' I explained the problem I had and asked, 'Do you have The How?' Because a lot of times, people talk about why you should do something and what you should do. If you read Forbes articles about best workplaces and all that kind of stuff, like 'Performance Management Should be Dead!' And I say okay, but how are you going to ensure that you have a high-performance culture that is fair and equitable? So The How is missing from anything you read online. And in safe-safe circles, behind closed doors, people were telling me The How."
"The How isn't competitive intelligence. That should be baseline." Ambrosia recognized that this practical information--what she calls "The How"--is like the code in open source software. It doesn't give you a competitive advantage over others, that all lies in other areas, just like we can all use Linux or Drupal to level the playing field and then compete on other areas of differentiation. "Competitive intelligence is me taking that and making sure it fits with my organization ... I've probably combined it with 4 or 5 other Hows ... It's alchemy. There are things I see as competitive intelligence: compensation, stuff like that."
Opening up - asking for help, giving help
I wanted to know how Ambrosia's peers reacted when she opened up to them about her needs, problems, and challenges. She told me, "I found they were very collaborative. My experience has been that anybody I ever sent a Bat-Signal out, asking for help, people have come and helped me. And then I've reciprocated when I was able to." Ambrosia could swap, for example, her expertise in the world of social media for someone else's experience of policy scalability at large corporations. "It was really about equal value propositions. It wasn't just about solving a need. I felt as though we could give something back and that every HR practitioner would have something they're up against," this sounds so familiar to me from the development and website-building world, "and that they could give an equal-value reciprocity ... if the got over themselves and the stereotypes and the reputation."
#HROS isn't the first time HR practitioners have ever shared or collaborated, but Ambrosia explains, "My thought was that we could bring this out into the practitioners' space instead of it being a group of people who were ... sharing because we know each other. What if you're an emerging practitioner? It was a way to even the playing field and a way to showcase that HR is very innovative and they are very collaborative and they do want to support each other. And that nobody does have the perfect answer, so let's all work on it together ... and openly."
Partnerships: external and internal
At Hootsuite, Ambrosia is extending this idea to collaborating with employees to improve internal systems and processes, too. "For me and a lot of HR practitioners, the stuff that is servicing people's daily jobs and removing roadblocks and empowering them should be done in collaboration, it should be done openly, and it should be up for debate."
"As HR practitioners, you need to be connected to your employees because they're your customers. So if our team sees us saying 'We did this thing and here's the parts that we missed,' now I've been humanized to them. Now, they're able to come and tell me when things might not be perfect because I'm not projecting and I'm not posturing and I'm not guarding against it. There are things in your job HR that are very serious, very regulated, very compliance-driven, but there are sandboxes where you can have a lot of fun and you can really connect with people. And we want to put some of those things out there to educate not only HR people, but employees, because the more they understand about our profession, the more they understand how we can work together to build a culture and a company that we both want to be at."
What are the geeks getting right?
"What are the geeks getting right? High level: The mindset of 'We're all in this together. Let's work on this together. Let's support and share.' ... Those are things that business should be taking into their practices. We're all intellectual capital businesses, those fundamental practices create amazing workflows and better businesses. The engineers got that right. At the very highest level, that is the right mentality to build your business on.
- Name: Ambrosia Vertesi
- Work affiliation: Global VP, Human Resources, Hootsuite
- Twitter: @hambrody
- LinkedIn: Ambrosia Vertesi
- Current projects: #singitfwd "Music changes lives. Pass it on."
- About: Over the past five years running HR for Hootsuite--and growing it from 20 to 1000+ employees!--Ambrosia Vertesi has had to figure out how to keep up with Hootsuite's enormous growth. Dealing with the challenging realities that many of us face at startups, like limited resources, budgets, and (perceived) talent shortages, forced her to get creative. Along the way, she and a group of her peers noticed that software professionals had institutionalized the way they benefitted from swapping favors, and connections to get things done: Open Source HR (#HROS) was born!