Open-Source HR Aims to Elevate the Profession

By Roy Maurer Feb 22, 2016
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Two talent acquisition influencers want companies to share their HR practices openly, for the benefit of the entire HR profession.  

Lars Schmidt
Lars Schmidt
Ambrosia Vertesi
Ambrosia Vertesi

Lars Schmidt, founder of Amplify Talent, ​and Ambrosia Vertesi, vice president of talent at Hootsuite, formally launched their vision for an HR open-source movement in October 2015 at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect conference.

The seed for Open Source HR (HROS) was planted when Schmidt, the former senior director of talent acquisition and innovation at NPR, and Vertesi were introduced by a mutual friend in 2012 and found themselves sharing strategies and collaborating on ideas. They met again at the South by Southwest conference in 2015, and were inspired to try to replicate the experience on an industrywide scale.

Schmidt and Vertesi incubated the project at Hootsuite, which shared the first case studies on the Open Source HR site regarding overcoming some of its biggest HR and recruiting challenges.

There have been 12 case studies published so far. More than 100 companies from around the world have approached Schmidt and Vertesi about submitting their own. The existing case studies have been viewed and downloaded over 25,000 times. 

The co-creators of Open Source HR discussed with SHRM Online their hopes for the initiative, what they wish to avoid and how HR practitioners can best take part in this effort to elevate the profession. They will be presenting on the topic June 20, 2015, at the Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C.

SHRM Online: What’s the ultimate goal of Open Source HR?

Schmidt: The goal is to bring the HR community together in a way that is open and drives more communication and collaboration, and the sharing and exchanging of ideas. The general concept is that if we all work more closely and share a little bit more, the entire field benefits.

Vertesi: Our vision for HROS is to transform the field of HR to become more strategic and innovative by democratizing access to ideas, education and inspiration.

SHRM Online: What would success look like?

Schmidt: If we’re successful, the end result is going to be a much more informed, inspired and connected community at large in HR. There will be new vehicles and platforms for people to interact with each other on, to find inspiration and to find actual case studies they can take back to their own organizations to implement change. Ambrosia and I are both fortunate to go to a lot of conferences and we have access to a lot of people considered to be HR influencers, so that has accelerated our own learning curves dramatically. But the vast majority of HR professionals don’t have that access. They have the ability to have membership in organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management and maybe attend a conference or two, but a majority don’t have the budget to pay for resources that can help inform and inspire their work. If we’re successful in this, another free channel will be created that will whet their appetite and get them more excited about what’s possible in HR and what their peers are doing.  

SHRM Online: Do you plan to go beyond case studies?

Schmidt: There are unlimited paths ahead of us. As we scale and expand, I could see events and local meet-ups being part of the strategy. The website will get more robust. We launched a blog component to share more cutting-edge practices. Our content committee will be thinking of future vehicles, whether that’s podcasts, user videos, hangouts or something that doesn’t even exist today.

SHRM Online: How is this initiative different than other efforts at bringing the open-source concept to HR?

Schmidt: HROS is a brand within the open-source movement. There are different flavors of open source, but there is room for all of them. Look at Google, for example, which launched re:Work, which is their flavor of open-source HR. Look at the Tru (The Recruiting Unconference) conferences led by Bill Boorman. They’re open; anyone can host, attend or speak. It’s a global exchange of information. Look at Talent Board’s Candidate Experience Awards. (Participating companies can benchmark their performance against each other through an analysis of anonymous data sets.) You can liken this to the mindset of consumers with the sharing economy. It’s a different way of doing business, and you’re starting to see more of an openness to sharing.

SHRM Online: What do you want to avoid with HROS?

Schmidt: Exclusiveness, for one. The intent is to impact the entire field of HR—all of the disciplines, not just recruiting or performance management. We want to provide something for everybody in the field of HR. The idea of inclusiveness can be applied to global inclusiveness also, and employer-size inclusiveness. Over time, we will have to be cognizant and proactive in making sure that the diversity of our content is inclusive of all of those areas.  

Vertesi: The backbone of our success is community engagement, so we have to ensure we always put the community at the forefront. That is not unique to any other initiative but since ours is peer-fueled, we lead there. It is also why we chose the values we did, in particular “community is greater than the individual.” There is no room for egos. We believe there is room in the HR ecosystem for all learning, whether formal, informal, paid, from associations or otherwise, so we will always seek to partner first.

SHRM Online: What can HR professionals do to take part in and advance open-source HR?

Schmidt: Go to HROS and register so you can be informed about updates. Join the Facebook and Twitter communities. Individual practitioners and companies can both register. We know not every practitioner will get the green light to contribute a case study so we felt there should be lots of ways for practitioners to contribute and be a part of the conversation.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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