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Blowing up traditional HR

Disrupt Madison is part of a broader movement to fundamentally change the way companies handle human resources. It’s a bold step, but not an unwelcome one.

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If you’re a stickler for the rules, this probably isn’t the article for you.

For too long workers have labored under the rigid, ever-watchful eye of the lords and ladies of Human Resources. These purveyors of office law and order may not win any workplace popularity contests, but they’re the ones companies task with ensuring everyone on the payroll maintains corporate cohesion in the pursuit of the omnipresent bottom line.

All that could change — and soon — as the Disrupt Madison movement gains traction locally, even as the wider DisruptHR movement seeks to drastically alter the HR landscape on a global scale.

Coreyne Woodman-Holoubek

Laura Gmeinder

It should be noted that the Disrupt Madison founders — Coreyne Woodman-Holoubek, vice president and co-owner of The Apu Group, and Laura Gmeinder, founder and president of Laura Gmeinder Coaching & Consulting LLC — aren’t idealistic HR outsiders. Rather, they’re experienced HR professionals who grew tired of the “old way” of doing things and set about to break a few rules in service of creating a better HR system for everyone.

“Disruption is the way our world works now,” explains Woodman-Holoubek. “It is about being the positive, forward-thinking change you want to see around you. For example, we hear that employers need to change the way they recruit and retain ‘talent’ because there is a ‘talent shortage.’ In reality, talent is all around us. We need to stop thinking of having a talent shortage, but rather a pipeline shortage or an opportunity shortage.

“There are so many talented people who have the need and initiative to create and live their meaningful purpose, but because of their circumstances or life stage they cannot ‘conform’ to working what employers think they need — eight-hour, five-day work weeks, or even part of second or third shift of a 40–50 hour work week,” Woodman-Holoubek continues. “Instead, people are creating their own inroads to making a living via the ‘gig’ economy, but most employers still are not listening to this underlying need. We aim to change that.”

Born to disrupt

Gmeinder and Woodman-Holoubek already knew each other from having been enrolled in the same UW HRCI SHRM certification preparation course. Over the years, they’d see each other around town at various events and briefly chat about career pursuits.

In early 2014 Woodman-Holoubek discovered the opportunity to pursue the Disrupt movement Madison, and at the same time she saw on LinkedIn that Gmeinder had taken the leap to start her own coaching and consulting company.

“I sent her a message to congratulate her, and asked if she would like to meet for coffee,” recalls Woodman-Holoubek. “I shared the vision to create the Disrupt Madison movement, and without hesitation Laura said, ‘I’m in, let’s do this!’ We feel we were destined to pursue this venture together. We fondly refer to each other as ‘HR soul mates.’”

But, what, exactly does Disrupt Madison do?

Disrupt is an information exchange designed to energize, inform, and empower executives, business leaders, and people in the HR field. Disrupt is a night of short, focused talks from professionals who want to share their ideas on how to move forward with their approach to talent.

Disrupt bucks traditional HR values and is a stark contrast from what you would experience going to a SHRM seminar, note both Woodman-Holoubek and Gmeinder. How? Disrupt offers quick, 5-minute presentations, a diverse lineup of speakers, and taboo or controversial topics.

Often, HR is the seen as the corporate police, according to Gmeinder and Woodman-Holoubek. Many companies don’t give HR professionals a seat at the table — and pay for it later down the road. True HR professionals should be empowered to impact the strategic direction of their company because they are more than just recruiting or payroll. The disruptive HR person is multifaceted and multitalented.

“We challenge our Disrupt Madison community to impact the world of work,” explains Gmeinder. “Whether it’s a company or an employee change, it starts with a conversation that impacts attitudes and the status quo. What do you have control over? What is working? What can be better? What is the future of your industry and how do you get ahead of a talent shortage, for example? Maybe your idea about what a well-qualified candidate’s experiences are needs to change. So how do you change it?

“Start with your mission and values — why are you doing what you are doing?” Gmeinder continues. “How can you best relay that to talent? You make sure you weave that into your job postings and what your employees are telling their network about your company. Not because it’s what you are telling them to say but because they genuinely love working for your company. And you create an interview process that honors and attracts like-minded candidates. You show and tell them how you retain and engage your employees. You walk the walk when it’s easy and when it’s hard. You care about your employees and you practice transparency.

“It’s been exciting to see the movement grow; recently we’ve had interest from companies inviting us in to help them disrupt the status quo within their teams, and then organization wide. If that isn’t reflective of our success in Madison, I don’t know what is.”

According to Woodman-Holoubek, last year’s Disrupt Madison 1.0 event was a success with more than 100 professionals in attendance at High Noon Saloon and via a global live feed.

This year’s event, Disrupt Madison 2.0, is set for June 7 at High Noon Saloon. It’s already sold out but because there’s been so much interest and buzz from the Greater Madison community, Woodman-Holoubek says she and Gmeinder have plans to expand the disruption, bringing the essence of Disrupt Madison to the organizational level. “Stay tuned for more information before the end of Q3!”

That also means taking the disruption on the road. A planned Disrupt Milwaukee event last year didn’t come to fruition due to a difficult pregnancy, says Woodman-Holoubek, but the duo are now set to bring Disrupt Milwaukee 1.0 to the Cream City this fall. And they are currently in discussion with Milwaukee Startup Week to make Disrupt Milwaukee part of the week’s events, and to hold a Disrupt Milwaukee live feed party in Madison as part of the Madison events.

“Laura and I are focused on challenging the way Wisconsin views the ‘world of work,’” says Woodman-Holoubek. “We feel that the voice, ideas, and action of the ‘disruption’ should not be limited to just HR executives and professionals. Everyone works, everyone contributes to our community and our economy. We even challenge the idea that stay-at-home moms and dads and other primary caregivers do not ‘go to work.’ They work. They manage a household and develop, coach, and mentor conscious citizens — their children — within their households.

“Retirees and community members volunteer — that’s ‘work,’” Woodman-Holoubek adds. “They use their talents, initiative, and efforts to move the needle forward every day so another person can have the opportunity they so desperately need. For Disrupt Madison 2.0 our intention is not to focus specifically on the HR function, for no other reason than to ensure everyone who wants to attend feels welcome and that his or her work is valued. In addition, we want to influence the unlikely thought leaders that exist in every organization, and here again even the organization of the household, to see value in their unique voice and perspective to make positive disruptive change in the workplace. Lastly, it’s important to move the needle on the stereotypical view of HR — aka ‘the evil HR lady,’ lovers of all ‘fluffy’ work initiatives, or the ‘the organizational police.’”

A schedule of the Disrupt Madison 2.0 presentations is provided below:



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