Lars Schmidt on the Value of HR Open Source for All

March 27, 2018 Emily Payne

What would happen if HR practitioners had access to a robust network of peers all around the world who were implementing progressive and innovative practices – and willing to share exactly why and how they did it? That was a driving question that led Lars Schmidt to create the HR Open Source initiative.

As an expert in employer branding and the founder of Amplify Talent, Lars co-founded HR Open Source (HROS.co) in 2015. HROS is a not-for-profit global community of more than 5,000 HR practitioners in more than 70 countries brought together by an interest in shared learnings to help prepare themselves and their companies for the future of work.

Globoforce had the opportunity to chat with Lars about what drove him to launch HR Open Source. Read the transcript below, or listen to the podcast above.

Globoforce: You have a new project now called Open Source HR. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Lars Schmidt: We launched HR Open Source about two years ago. My co-founder, Ambrosia Vertesi, came from the HR side and I came from the recruiting side. We were having a conversation around the growing gap between practitioners in HR who are operating on the leading edges and practitioners who are falling further and further behind that. What we wanted to do is try to create a platform that would really democratize access to progressive practices, using this to essentially create a global community of HR and recruiting practitioners based on collaboration and openness with a focus on the future of work and what's next in progressive practices.HR Open Source is a not-for-profit. All of the resources, all of the content, everything, is entirely free.

What we've seen at our WorkHuman events is that people are really looking for that connection with other HR practitioners, to share what they're going through and best practices. So this is a great service that you're doing for everybody.

I think that's an important piece. My co-founder and I have been going to conferences for quite some time and we're fortunate to be able to speak at events.. We built up a network of people who are really operating at the vanguard, but we also realize that we're very much in the minority. We wanted to create something for practitioners who don't have budgets to necessarily go to a lot of events, those who can't become members of subscription-based resources. We didn't feel the budget should be a determining factor on your ability to innovate. That was a big driving force in creating, most importantly, a free community where practitioners can get high-value resources regardless of what their budget situation is.

What is one small thing that HR leaders can do to create a more human workforce?

If your goal is creating a more human workforce, step one is really listening to your employees and immersing yourself in them. I think that's a shift we're starting to see. And HR, historically, has had a hard time walking the line of being the complaints-driven entity of an organization that feels it has to keep its distance from employees, to an extent, to – we're starting this huge shift now – much more of a human HR field. Where you are focused more on things like the employee experience, retention, and employee lifetime value, and things like that which, historically, weren't necessarily always the way that the field of HR approached its role. We're starting to see more of that and that's a good thing for our field and it's a good thing for employees.

We launched just a little bit before Google's re:Work platform launch, which is their flavor of Open Source, if you will, in HR where they share some of their practices and templates. From our point of view, the more entities that are helping practitioners better themselves, better their ability to support their organizations, the better. The more people aware of what resources are out there that can help support them, the more impact they'll be able to make in their role. And, ultimately, that raises the entire field and the capabilities of the industry. So everybody wins.

You've gone from NPR to helping companies like Hootsuite and even astronauts at SpaceX. Are there any common issues you see across the board?

I think there are probably more common issues than uncommon issues, to be honest. One of the things that I've been pretty deliberate with my career, even before I started my own firm, was I always tried to work in a different industry. I rarely have worked in the same industry twice. And over 20 years, that's probably somewhat rare. I just wanted to see what problems they had in different industries and then how they solve them. And then, ultimately my feeling was, if I can create this mental library of how to solve challenges in different industries and bring each of those learnings to a new industry, that's going to be a big differentiator.

Of course, there are nuanced differences per industry in terms of the types of people you hire and unique developmental and retention challenges with each of them, but they're not fundamentally different. I think they have a lot more in common than they do different, which is probably not something that would be intuitive, but certainly something that I've seen by spending some time firsthand in different industries.

What are you working on right now? Do you have any passion projects or interesting clients that you're working with?

I'm always interested in different kind of community projects, collaborative projects. One of the things that I recently launched was something I called the Amplify Learning Lab. I've been curating content for a couple years now of things that I think are interesting or informative around the intersection of culture, talent, brand, and the future of work. Typically, I've been clipping all these articles into an Evernote folder where they sat. And I tag them so I could go back and reference them or I can share them with the clients if they needed guidance on a particular project.

But I recently just took my entire archives and uploaded it into a new community platform called the Amplify Learning Lab, and I made that available for free. The idea is that I wanted to have something a bit more dynamic than just a newsletter where you push out content and you don't really know what's resonating. You can track clicks but you don't really know what folks are finding interesting and you're certainly not inspiring dialogue and conversation around the topic.

Whereas, in this platform, you're able to do just that. I'm able to not just share the content but see how people are interacting with it, see what questions people have on it, and, ultimately, make it a live resource library so you can follow the topics that interest you. It's all searchable and it's a cool way for me to be able to take all that content that I have been and continue to curate and give it away – make it available for folks to find, read, and hopefully find some inspiration or learn something from.

How can our readers find you if they want to follow all the great things that you're doing?

I'm very findable. You can go to larsschmidt.com, that's my personal website that's under construction, but there's stuff there. My business website is my company, it's amplifytalent.com. I'm on Twitter @Lars. You can find all my work on my Amplify site, like my writing for Fast Company, Forbes, and a few other publications.

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