“Big Talk” gets results in “Modern Love” – why not use it for HR Technology initiatives?

Your friendly HR technologist (me) needs to get a life – I decided. Everything I read recently generates some kind of connection to my life in HR Tech. Even the regular Sunday NY Times – Style Section column – “modern love”. Yes, I read it. Why not? So, recently the column was written by a middle age man (Tim Boomer) – could be a fake name? – newly re-entering the dating scene and lamenting about the difficulty he has with “small talk”. “After my trip, I was eating steak at a Boston bar, still mourning that the woman I thought I would marry, Alejandra, had broken up with me. I’d met her five years earlier, and she was, in every way imaginable, an inspiration to me. She was the woman who taught me about love. Next to me at the bar was a couple on their first date. I could tell because their conversation reminded me of those awkward exchanges you have with co-workers’ spouses at Christmas parties. They opened with a discussion about their commutes to the bar. They both lived within a 10-minute bus ride, and they managed to stretch out this topic for 30 minutes. Next up, the weather: In Boston it rains sometimes, and they had both noticed this. An hour in, they turned to the really deep stuff. One was a teacher, and the other knew a teacher. How could they be destined for anything other than true love? O.K., so I may have been directing some of my brokenhearted anger at them, but all I could think was that I wanted no part of this game. If being single meant having to partake in this kind of conversation, I’d rather pass. How could I go from the deep connection I had with Alejandra to discussing bus schedules and weather patterns?” He continues: “With this in mind, I decided to approach my re-entry to dating with a no-small-talk policy. Not that I would insist we talk only about heartfelt subjects; ideally, there would also be plenty of flirtatious joking and witty banter. I simply wanted to eliminate the dull droning on about facts and figures — whether it’s snowing or raining, how cold it is, what we do for work, how long it takes to get to work, where we went to school — all those things that we think we have to talk about with someone new but that tell us little about who the person really is. Why can’t we replace small talk with big talk and ask each other profound questions right from the start? Replace mindless chatter about commuting times with a conversation about our weightiest beliefs and most potent fears? Questions that reveal who we are and where we want to go?” Admittedly, it seems to me that this approach is not always mutually desired by the interacting parties. A common complaint according to the author: “You can’t ask “Big Questions until you know the answers to the small ones, you need to know the facts to know where to dig deeper.” All this angst, got me thinking. Let me try to translate this concept into my sphere of influence: that of the need for HR technology support to make HR a strategic, value-added business partner in an organization and the efforts of HRMS software providers to help a company do so. (And to make a sale). I think in our industry there are typically four groups of people that require a mindfulness of THE BIG TALK. And, at the same time, they must also conduct the appropriate level of “small talk” for building a business partner relationship. In my analogy, “small talk” is defined as lots of chatter, less meaningful findings, conversations of little consequence – except for establishing an early common ground. Small talk therefore, in of itself, will most likely miss any underlying issues and will certainly not uncover any important decision drivers that might be in play that are the driving force behind a company’s stated initiatives. The four – what I call – “Big Talk Seekers” and their objectives are the following: 1 – The CEO, CFO, and CIO 2 – the Senior Leadership of HR – the CHRO or the SVP and whoever is the Executive Sponsor of a project effort to improve a company’s use of HR technology in any shape, manner or form. 3 – The HR Technology Evaluation Team 4 – The HR software provider – the vendor of a potential new HRMS. Here then are the “BIG TALK” subjects that must be openly stated, documented, communicated and understood by all appropriate stakeholders for each...