Virtual community is the real way forward

This week, more than 13,000 HR practitioners, consultants and vendors from
around the world will converge in San Francisco for the US National Society for
Human Resources Management Conference. The HR management marketplace will host
more than 600 vendors, ranging from HR software to consultancies.

I have been participating in an online discussion forum or
"list-serve" with attendees from outside the US. I am as busy as the
next HR person, and quiet time for e-mails is just not there, but I sleep better
at night knowing I am not the only person in the world worried about how
developments in the USwill affect my staff in Japan.

As I have been reading the e-mails, it has struck me that an immediate
community has built up – partially around the writers who are attending the
same conference, partially around a thirst for knowledge.

In a sense, this is a pure virtual team, created for a specific,
time-sensitive agenda, with none of the participants in the same place. It
includes only those who are interested in the issues and will end after the

The correspondents have been writing on topics from, "Is anyone else
attending from Australia?" to "I need to talk to someone who has
experience in starting an HR function in Germany".

These people can call on any one of a number of consultancies for advice,
they can log on to the SHRM or CIPD websites, but they are raising these
queries, seeking out other practitioners, then arranging to meet at the

This knowledge sharing, this virtual community, will certainly result in a
highly cost-effective way of obtaining experience and learning from others.

Here is a question to pose: "To what extent do virtual communities
affect how we, as practitioners, execute our specific remits?" There are a
variety of message boards and list-serves out there, but are we making use of

HR will face increasing complexities of scale and detail. Our ability to
quickly and effectively deliver solutions in multiple countries,
simultaneously, will be key to our success, our future, and our seat at the

This all comes back to participation. I am responding to messages on the
online discussion forum and to a SHRM Global Forum. Are you contributing to
your HR community – in the UK, Europe, or globally?

For every issue you resolve by calling a friend or sending an e-mail, are
you participating in our collective knowledge by responding to someone else’ s
query? What is the e-source available for retaining this knowledge?

Only when we move further in the direction of global knowledge sharing, can
we start leveraging experience and delivering solutions that are
transformational, not just transactional.

By Lance Richards, Vice-president HR, Teleglobe
Lance Richards is on the board of directors for SHRM Global Forum and is an
editorial adviser to Global HR magazine

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