Conversations, Connections and Community - HR Open Source

We recently had a chat with Bill Boorman about a few topics. You know Bill, right? Never wears a suit, always wears a hat and has an enviable beard? He’s the founder of #tru (the recruiting unconference), speaks at numerous events each year, and has conversations with thousands of recruiters around the globe every year about making the world of work better for everyone. He’s the Managing Director of Technology & Innovation for Recruiting Daily and is lead advisor for talent technology companies such as RolePoint, Clinch, HROnboard, Job and Talent, and Universum, among others. Follow Bill on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.


HR Open Source consists of two major components - Community and Content. Community involves robust conversation and collaboration - two things #tru is well known for. How do these intersect at a #tru event? What sorts of things happen as a result?

The whole point is providing a place and a purpose where people can connect and start a relationship on a basis of something other than one person trying to sell something to the other.

Those of us who were lucky enough to be around at the explosion of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn seven or eight years ago found it was much easier to connect because there were less people and the spam hadn’t really started. Because we were all explorers there was a lot more connecting without purpose and getting involved in conversation.

I’m a big believer that real relationships evolve from daily banter around irrelevant life topics, occasionally broken up by work-based conversations. I think we have lost this sense of connecting and just getting to know each other in the search for personal brand and all the rules about what you should and shouldn’t do. The reaction to new connection requests is suspicion rather than welcome because the opportunity to connect has become so abused. What #tru is about is giving people a safe place to connect where people don’t take themselves too seriously; people respect the opportunity and don’t abuse it.

The other important part of #tru is that we don’t operate occupational apartheid. When you treat vendors as separate and exclude them from the conversation or from events (and I include consultants in this) you set up a gladiatorial environment with vendors and practitioners divided – keeping each other at arm’s length. When you trust people to behave like adults and be equals, the outcome is that they rarely disappoint. Real communities have trust first and this is my hope for #HROS. When people drop suspicions and don’t think everyone is out to make money then real connections happen that grow in to meaningful relationships.


You’ve talked about the “Rules of the Pub” for recruiting (editors note: the least play-by-the-rules guy using the phrase “Rules” is somewhat amusing) and addressed such things as networking, building relationships, and sharing. Care to elaborate?

The rules of the pub are pretty simple - and something I’m well versed in. They are also global and apply to all real communities or gatherings of people. It sounds clichéd, but I try to live my life by this:

·      Everybody knows what everyone does but work is only talked about when it’s invited or requested. It’s not really about personality (there are all sorts) or about background, education or anything else. It is about mutual conversation and hanging out without purpose, but being useful when needed.

·      People are connected by purpose (booze) and will help each other whenever they can without expectation of return. This is a tough one for recruiters and HR pros to get their heads around, doing something because you can help and you think it will be fun (for the LOLs), rather than financial or material gain. I find some of the folks who spout the most about community and collaboration are the first to suspect others and create barriers. I’m hoping that #HROS can challenge this and provide a more welcoming environment for people to do things without others kicking off and questioning motives. Trust and you might just get trust back. I learnt a long time ago that life is much easier when you trust until disappointed; you can’t let a few disappointments cloud your view of everyone.

·      You don’t want to be “that guy!” Well, it could also be “that girl.”  You know the one...always accepts a drink but never buys a round, or gets to the end of a group meal and gets out a calculator and will only put in exactly what s/he has taken out. We all know “that” person, and we know that they stop getting invites and get excluded, but that kind of behaviour just isn’t accepted. I see communities being the same regardless of if they are physical or digital. Those people who don’t contribute or look to take out only what they put in upset the status quo. When you get too many people taking this approach in any community then the real contributors and collaborators head to the hills and go elsewhere. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to contribute all the time, but they do need to contribute where they can, and not count up their contribution in expectation of return.

·      Relationships are measured by irrelevance. This might sound a bit strange, and at odds with the personal branding mafia, but there is a reality to it. How much do you talk about work with your friends, except when you need a trusted opinion or honest feedback? Most of your interactions are around irrelevance from sport, to TV to politics, and there is always an injection of humour. If you are going to get to know and have relationships with the communities you hang out in, then you need to keep this in mind; don’t always try to position yourself as the expert or the fountain of all knowledge. Have fun with it. 

The rules are homemade. No one publishes the rules of the pub, like the legal ones accepted, but they are there and they are real. They are the way we behave and interact with each other over time, and digital communities are the same. The idea of a community manager is a ridiculous idea taken in this context. Communities manage themselves, and determine what the rules or guidelines are in an informal way.

It’s my hope that we get to this point with #HROS - less top down in a traditional way and more of the rules of conduct evolving from the folks who have chosen to sign up or take part. I give a big hat tip to Ambrosia and Lars for what they have done in setting this up (every fire needs a spark) and the volunteers who have tried to drive initiatives. It is my hope that the community will reach a point soon that others can take this on without direction and that we get to see a few new faces. All it takes is time and confidence.


The vision of HROS is to transform the field of HR to become more strategic and innovative by democratizing access to ideas, education and inspiration. Why is this critical? How can we do this more effectively now?

That’s one of those sky high things I don’t look at too much. I’m less concerned about trying to transform a whole field and more about trying to make things better for people - and providing access to the resources and connections to enable them to do it for themselves. The price point of many events and training excludes many people and this is wrong. We can only make things better for people through HR by removing this barrier, enabling people to be, and to do the best that they can. We should do this because it is the right thing to do and not because we see it as an opportunity to advance brand or to make money.

Transformation is not about technology, although that may play a part in it; transformation is much more about changing people, attitudes and approach. Let’s not try and change the world, lets worry about one person at a time. If we do this together, without thinking about competition, anything is possible.


 “Sharing is caring” is one of the HROS values. What does this mean to you?

Share what you can, when you can. Share your own story and your own questions and views. This will create the conversation that will lead to connection that will lead to community. Sharing is not just about pressing like or sharing on Facebook; it is about taking an active part where you can. Share by contribution.


“Collaborate or Die” – true or false?

There are no competitors, only collaborators. Big statement but one I try to live by. When you take out commercialisation there is more motive to work together. If we see the challenges of HR and recruiting applying to everyone, it is a challenge for all of us collectively. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that people are on the receiving end of HR and recruiting and the way we do our jobs. When we take the politics out of that, who doesn’t want to make the world better? That will only come from collaboration. Lets make things better together, and share the responsibilities we have to do this.

Robin SchoolingComment