Transform 2012: “We’ve always done it that way” = Failure

We just returned from the first annual “Transform” HR conference in Austin, Texas, produced by First, congratulations to John Hollon, Ron Thomas, Scott Baxt, and the many others at TLNT and ERE who pulled off a terrific two days. Transform 2012 had the goods: great speakers, great networking, and fresh ideas that propelled conversations long after each day had wrapped and attendees descended on Austin’s amazing dining scene (think mind-blowing BBQ and Tex-Mex).

Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane
at Transform 2012. (EL photos – click to enlarge)

The bad news: crowds were small. But that’s typical for many first-time events. The good news: crowds were passionate about HR and learning new ways to transform their craft (pun intended). Isn’t that what matters most? People traveled to Austin to sweep their minds of stale ideas, listen to new and different perspectives, and get re-energized. Using that criteria, Transform was a home run.

Since HRmarketer was a gold sponsor and exhibitor, we didn’t get to many sessions, but two keynotes easily stood out: Jim Knight, senior director of training for Hard Rock International, and Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball club and the focus of the book/movie Moneyball.
Knight gave us a look inside Hard Rock’s employee culture and rocked (ahem) the house with slides, videos, and stories about how the company conveys their service philosophy to new employees and keeps people committed. A little irreverence goes a long way when it’s married with clear and visually exciting communications. Best of all, they never lose sight of their Rock ’n Roll spirit.

Billy Beane’s talk, “The Moneyball Approach to Talent Management,” was even better (then again, I’m a lifelong baseball fan, so this was heaven!). After sharing what it’s like to be played by Brad Pitt in an Oscar-nominated movie (fast answer = pretty cool), Beane shared stories and statistics about his people management philosophy in Oakland. Aided by assistant Paul DePodesta, he used baseball’s vast amounts of data and statistics to make the A’s competitive with far wealthier teams who were making purely emotional decisions.

The greatest struggle Beane faced was overcoming 150 years of “We’ve always done it that way.” He didn’t force the parallels between baseball and HR in his talk, because he didn’t need to.

After two days of showing SocialEars to media, analysts, and attendees, we can relate. We’re thrilled that buyers are beginning to understand its strategic benefits, but the reality is that any progressive vision – whether technology, a new service, or a philosophy – is greeted by a mix of awe and skepticism, followed by a nervous look around the room for something comforting and familiar.

The HR space is changing fast, and watching an expo hall filled with thought leaders, media, bloggers, analysts, and practitioners was a sharp reminder that marketers and PR pros need to be connected with these people on a daily basis. You need to know the topics they care about and engage them in conversations of substance. Because business is changing constantly and you don’t have time to market your goods using the same-old, same-old.

“We’ve always done it this way” is a big, fat fail. Thanks to TLNT for inspiring HR to think different.

See below for photos of Transform 2012. To view videos and slides from the event, visit

John Hollon of TLNT and Nick Fishman of EmployeeScreenIQ look on
as Kevin Grossman shows SocialEars in action.
The HRmarketer booth stayed busy, filming conversations with vendors and
HR thought leaders about social influence and marketing. Above, Peter Clayton
of TotalPicture Radio interviews Matt Charney of Cornerstone OnDemand.
Blogger Crystal Miller displays good advice for any HR pro (and marketer!)
  In the end, it’s all about the candy. Thanks, Pinstripe!

Posted by Elrond Lawrence, HRmarketer media relations

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