DisruptHR NYC is changing the perception of people officers and preparing everyone for the future of work

By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on October 15, 2019

DisruptHR is an information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower executives, business leaders and people in the HR field. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever attended. The event is modeled like a workshop and they are hosted throughout the year. DisruptHR was originally founded by Jennifer McClure in Ohio and there are now 140 chapters worldwide.

Individuals in the field stand up and tell their stories, personalizing general business concepts and experiences to make them more relatable to the audience. The forum enables professionals in the field to share insights and ideas. By doing so, those shaping corporate cultures become better prepared for the future of work, which is a topic gaining traction with broad interest.

Grace Cook, DisruptHR NYC

The chief organizer of the NYC chapter of DisruptHR is Grace Cook. She has worked hard with her team to design a unique event. The format can be described like take-out HR (takeaway if you’re a Brit like Cook). Even though you know what’s on the menu, what you’re actually going to consume isn’t fully understood or digested until you’ve had your fill. More importantly, you’re going to leave feeling full but wanting to come back for another taste. Because, if you manage people, you understand that you need to stay sharp and on the edge to be better prepared for the future of work.

Rapid insights

The presentations are quick. Snappy. And interesting. Not to mention expertly curated. Even the on-the-spot surprise slideshow storytelling session makes you think about what people can do. That is, if they are given the freedom to be creative – with support – and without judgment.

Before assuming ownership of the DisruptHR brand and launching a NYC franchise, Cook was working in employee communications for a marketing agency in London. At that time, she was heavily involved in HR and paying close attention to how companies, and individuals, were ill-prepared for the future of work.

She recognized a gap in the NYC HR conference space. The traditional events weren’t fun. They were dull and predictable, too lengthy, too large and they didn’t foster great networking. In parallel, people workers were facing an increasing amount of finger-pointing for the challenges associated with recruiting in a zero unemployment era where companies are expected to be lean, be agile and thrive.

Introducing The Workies

Felix Zeltner, Work Awesome

So she teamed up with Felix Zeltner, co-founder of Work Awesome, a trans-Atlantic forum that empowers people for the future of work. Together, they are continuing to innovate in the field of HR and event planning. They’ve designed an awards platform to make people officers feel appreciated for the work that they do. The first likely-to-become-an-annual-event “The Workies” will be held next week, October 24, 2019, in NYC.

Felix and his two co-founders straddle Berlin and NYC.  They take an unconventional approach. As journalists, they treat HR event planning as a live magazine.

They noticed a few trends. For example, the use of HR as a job title was declining but the number of people in the role was increasing. Creative titles are increasingly reflecting the expansion of the role which has evolved gradually over the last decade or so. Today, Culture Crafters, Chief People Officers, Happiness Officers, Talent Managers, and other similarly themed job titles are the new norm. The indirect ripple effect of this not-so-subtle shift in job title naming convention has sparked a new awareness for the efforts of the people in the field and a fresh talking point to launch new conversations.

What is the future role of HR?

Boldly stated, “HR is saving lives.” Literally. The complexity of remote work, organizational churn, financial pressures, and other factors are stressing workers out. Many are ill-prepared to navigate the change that is today’s new constant. Workers are increasingly unable to adapt without leaning on others for help. HR fills this gap.

Asking the exam question around the future of work, “What will HR’s role be 10 years from now?” opens up a barrage of thoughts and diverse opinions. The answers depend on geography, type of business, a mix of professionals versus tradespeople and a host of other factors. When Cook began putting this question about the future of work out to her network, she was surprised by the level of engagement, the variety in the stories and the support that she received. Zeltner also had a surprise of his own: he didn’t realize how well journalism aligned with planning and hosting live HR events.

DisruptHR is sparking a new conversation

The DisruptHR forum has sparked the conversation, more specifically, the confession, that HR workers genuinely don’t know what to do next. There is no playbook to guide preparedness for the future of work. How can there be?

Nobody knows what the future of work looks like. HR workers are overwhelmed by their own insecurities, vulnerabilities, job stressors, plus the number and variety of incidents that they need to now manage. DisruptHR gives them a forum to air it out, share their stories, learn from others in their field and find new allies to collaborate with to drive change.

Today, most companies in the US average about 0.9 HR staff per 100 employees. Startups tend to have a higher ratio, but it’s only slightly greater. The Workies were designed specifically for this purpose. Too many HR people are going under-appreciated. Worse yet, their work behind-the-scenes is going unnoticed. Much of this is anchored in a culture of disrespect: people wouldn’t be employed and part of the team unless they had a role to fulfill. HR shouldn’t be catching the heat for everything that’s wrong with companies today. They’re collectively not part of the problem – they’re part of the solution.

Although how the future of work will map out is unknown, there is one thing to be sure of. If you’re into people management, organizational development, and corporate culture, sign up for a DisruptHR event near you. Until you get your first taste, you won’t know what you’ve been missing.

Upcoming DisruptHR events in NYC

Oct 24, 2019 (NYC) Work Awesome & The Workies where you will experience highly curated talks, brilliant storytelling, and engaging immersive workshops, accompanied by a brand new awards program for people leaders. Plus: live music, farm-to-table food, and afterparty! Register here to discuss the future of how we work with diverse leaders from science to politics, from media to tech.

Dec 9, 2019 (NYC) DisruptHR is designed to energize, inform and empower executives, business leaders and people in the HR field. If you’re tired of the same old approach to Human Resources and ready to start talking about talent in a whole new way, register here.




By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Dr. Loralyn Mears is a Columnist at Grit Daily and a podcast host (The Grit Files, which aims to shine the spotlight on female founders). She is a content marketer, founder of the WORKtech startup, STEERus, specializing in personal and professional development to address gaps in soft skills - communication in particular. In her consultancy practice, she helps clients with content and strategy. Loralyn spent over a decade playing with mosquito DNA, got her PhD, decided she would rather market science than be at the bench and has never looked back. Along the way, she’s wined and dined her way around the globe. She's authored two books, including the 2018 Gold Medal Indie Book award-winning, One Sip At a Time: a Memoir and the hard science thriller, "The Battle for Humanity: How Science Saved Us." 

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