The case for disruptive innovation

Designed to energize and empower, DisruptHR seeks to challenge conventional HR thinking and inspire action

Photo: Ahria Consulting president and CEO, Terry Gillis

“I HATE TO be a broken record,” says Terry Gillis, ­president and CEO at Ahria Consulting. “But the trifecta is engagement, culture and leadership.”

Those three things come up a lot with Gillis. They are familiar ideas to anyone who has talked with him about what’s happening in the modern workplace, which in his view is in a simmering state of largely self-inflicted crises, unable to tap into the potential of its people and producing pessimism more than productivity.

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“That’s what is really at the core of organizations today and why they’re having the challenges they are. Are they building good leaders? Do they have an engaged workforce? Do they have the right culture?” he asks. Find answers to these three questions and you’ll unlock the key to solving most of the big problems many businesses face these days.

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Simple stuff, were it not for a lot of entrenched thinking. Enter DisruptHR, an event Gillis has been running in London since 2017 (this year will be the first since Covid). It is, he says, like TED Talks for human resources. Speakers each get a couple minutes to make a quick — and hopefully provocative — pitch, and everyone goes home with some new ideas to chew over.

“We’re not going to give anybody the secret sauce,” he says. “But we’re going to let them know that the secret sauce exists, and we’re going to give them the ingredients for it.”

“We’re not going to give anybody the secret sauce. But we’re going to let them know that the secret sauce exists, and we’re going to give them the ingredients for it” —Terry Gillis

It’s the timing that makes this a big year for the event. The work world of 2023 bears little resemblance to the work world of 2019, the last time the event was held. What he hopes — and predicts — is that people who, like him, see the need for change (even if they don’t necessarily see all the answers) will be excited to have their mindsets challenged.

“If we keep using the same solutions — yesterday’s ­solutions — that’s a big problem,” he says. “Today’s world is different.”

The case for disruptive innovation DisruptHR Human Resources

And while not all of that can be laid at the feet of HR departments, some of it can. Gillis can see how someone might view their HR department as being caught on both sides — trying to serve the organization while also trying to represent its people, right at a time when those two sides are seemingly in conflict.

“I think sometimes we lose the plot, and we forget about what we are really doing here,” Gillis says. “At the end of the day, you’re trying to achieve goals inside your ­organizations, and you need people to do them. So, if you’re not aligned with that, well, you’re kind of euchred.”

Ultimately, he thinks that’s what will give the event a much broader appeal. His target isn’t HR folks ­exclusively, but people who are concerned with how humans are ­experiencing work.

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“It’s not an HR event. It’s an event for business. And show me a business that doesn’t have an HR challenge right now,” he says.

“We’re not going to solve any riddles for anybody, but we’re going to get them thinking about the riddle. And that’s the first step.”

For more information and tickets for DisruptHR, visit The case for disruptive innovation DisruptHR Human Resources Kieran Delamont

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