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How do HR practitioners prefer to learn?

There's a lot of value to be found in conferences and books

By Brian Kreissl 

I’m looking forward to attending the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)’s annual conference and tradeshow in Toronto this week. It is the ninth year in a row I will have attended the conference. 

I will be at the Thomson Reuters booth so if you’re there, please stop by and say hello. And while I will be helping out at the booth during the busy times (between sessions and at designated tradeshow viewing times), I will also be attending some of the sessions. 

Attending sessions at a conference is a great way to learn about HR and employment law topics and keep apprised of latest developments and emerging best practices. It’s also a great way to network with colleagues in the profession and learn from their experiences, challenges and accomplishments. 

I may be somewhat biased but I also think there is value in browsing the tradeshow floor, finding out what types of products and services are available on the market and chatting with vendors. Some of those offerings can help solve your issues and challenges as a practitioner, lessen your workload and enhance the HR programs in your organization. (You can also pick up some nice giveaways, swag and prizes and learn from the content marketing provided by vendors.) 

I have been to HR conferences put on by HRPA, the Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA), the Human Resources Management Association (HRMA) in British Columbia and the Human Resources Association of New Brunswick (HRANB), and found them all informative and interesting. I would definitely recommend attending an HR conference held by HRPA or one of the other provincial HR associations. 

The value of books 

One of the things we found when we have done market research in the past is many HR practitioners prefer to learn through conferences, seminars and webinars. This is supported by anecdotal feedback obtained from our salesforce. 

I can completely understand this because I personally enjoy this type of learning as well. It’s also true that people have different preferred learning styles; some people are visual learners, whereas others prefer reading or like to hear people speak and therefore learn better orally. Still others prefer hands-on learning and like to have a chance to practise what they’ve learned in the real world. 

However, I personally think one of the best ways to learn is to reinforce that learning through multiple channels. While this may sound a little self-serving, I still think books have a major role to play in learning and professional development. 

We’re living in a world where the Internet has completely taken over and people can find a tremendous amount of information online. As a result, people’s attention spans are definitely shrinking, as much of the information available online is in condensed format such as tweets, posts, short articles and videos. 

I am personally guilty of eschewing books and other print resources at times in favour of reading, watching and listening to content online, but that’s a mistake. I definitely don’t think there is as much depth or detail in most online content as there is in a good book, and when I do finish reading a book I find myself thinking, “I should do this more often.” 

People are obviously pressed for time and often don’t believe they have time to read books, but there are a number of problems with this line of thinking. First of all, there’s no question we waste a lot of time online these days — particularly on social media. Some of that time could be spent reading books. 

It’s also true that people don’t necessarily have to read non-fiction books cover-to-cover. Scholarly and reference publications are often designed for the reader to look up the information needed at the time and can reinforce people’s existing knowledge. 

HR professionals in particular are often guilty of thinking they have to know everything right off the top of their heads, but this isn’t how other professionals approach research and learning. Lawyers, for example, do a ton of research and don’t try to rely on their memories for everything. 

Many of our books are now available online, which is a great way to search for the information you need. But there’s still a lot of value in print publications because — as someone once said — books facilitate “fortuitous browsing” of content by simply flipping through their pages. 

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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