By Sarah Wilen -
DisruptHR is a global conference series focused on the people and ideas bringing change to the HR profession. Each presenter is allotted only five minutes in which to offer a new idea and challenge established industry practices. The format provides a quick shot of inspiration to anyone who thinks about helping people perform their best at work. Speakers include HR professionals and experts in business development, talent, and training. Video of presentations from this and previous years of DisruptHR are available for free viewing.
As one might expect, business culture and equity were at the heart of several of the presentations. Laura Cooper, SVP of People for Bluecore, addressed this in her talk about female leadership. Cooper pointed out that toxic environments for women have a way of self-perpetuating themselves; some leaders who endure poor treatment from colleagues feel as if they’re doing the next generation a favor by being hard on them. Instead, the goal should be to create an atmosphere in which women can support one another.
Shifting the focus to diversity in a more general sense, Christina Herrmann, Chief Talent Officer at Shipman & Goodwin, asked "Why Are You Still Doing D&I Wrong?" In the 90s, Diversity & Inclusion initiatives aimed to address inequities in workplace culture and practice. Hermann’s provocation is that these committees are actually perpetuating the problem, and must be replaced with mechanisms that actually create opportunity.
Having first presented at DisruptHR in 2016, PLASTARC Founder and Executive Director Melissa Marsh returned this year to speak about "Embracing Diversity With Workplace Design." Marsh argued that business and management literature typically focus on policies and procedures that support diversity, but often under-represent both the symbolic and practical value of the built environment. The physical spaces and services we provide in the workplace serve as extensions of our values, and present an opportunity for inclusion; providing spaces that accommodate a diverse range of needs inherently supports a more diverse set of occupants.
Attendees also heard from Jeanette Bronee, CEO & Founder Path for Life, about the ways that toxic work cultures sabotage both wellness and performance. The culture of many workplaces leads people to ignore their most basic needs, skipping out on adequate rest, nutrition, and mental health. Perpetually living in survival mode leads to more conflict and to a culture of burnout and chronic stress. Bronee stressed that people need to listen to their own bodies and take steps to make their environments work better for their needs; "stress is contagious, but so is well-being."
In a talk after our own hearts, Ben Brooks of PILOT Coaching implored attendees to "Stop Designing the Employee Experience and Start Empowering It." He spoke about the consumerization of the workplace, advocating for an approach to employee experience that is built on engagement and democratization. Each member of a team is seeking a different experience at work. The function of HR, says Brooks, should be to empower employees to create the experience they want.