Meet the Editor: An interview with HRZone’s Jamie Lawrence

Triana Jarman

If you’ve spent any time at all on you will no doubt have noticed the ‘face’ behind the site, Editor Jamie Lawrence. In this post we look behind the scenes of this leading online title, and also of the HRZone editor himself. What makes him tick and how has he helped to create a community which continues to grow so successfully in terms of both size and engagement? We investigate…

Q: Tell us a little about your background prior to joining HRZone.

JL: I worked previously as a copywriter for a digital media agency and then as a small business journalist before joining HRZone. I’ve always been fascinated with words and have always wanted to be a writer, and I think I’ll be working with words for the rest of my life!

Q: What changes have you seen at HRZone since you became editor almost exactly 2 years ago?

JL: The site has gone through massive re-engineering in terms of technology and our ability to better provide the content that people want without them having to tell us what they want – it’s about making it easier for the reader to consume. There have also been significant changes in terms of content as we look to keep pace (and stay ahead of) the HR and management industries and provide professionals with a road map so they can be where they need to be, when they need to be there.

Q: What were some of the key topics discussed amongst your community members over the past 12 months?

JL: Engagement has been a very important topic as HR professionals look to make their engagement programmes do more than just promote happiness – wellbeing, performance, productivity, work-life balance, all these things are being linked to engagement and engagement strategies must be much more robust and sweeping nowadays. HR technology is another major topic as the innovation we’ve seen in the last few years in the tech industry is propelling HR to the podium of functions that are adding value across the entire organisation through the technology they can bring to the table.

Q: Tell us a little about content for 2015 and how you plan your schedule?

JL: We have very general themes for the year ahead but we take what’s topical, when it’s topical. That’s the advantage of being online-only, we can move quickly when there’s an industry development or a topic that needs picking apart so that our audience can better understand what it means for them. We have pretty simple guidelines for whether we take a contribution: it must be relevant to strategic HR directors and HR leaders, and it must be saying something new, insightful or innovative. The vast majority of content that gets rejected is rejected because we’ve heard it a thousand times before. As a forward-thinking HR site we must constantly be pushing boundaries. Spelling and grammar and flow can be fixed easily, but if the topic is dry or 10 years’ past its sell by date, there’s little you can do with it.

Q: Which HRZone features did you find the most engaging over the last 12 months?

JL: I thought that this one on Why Generation Y are changing reward strategies was very interesting because it focused on one major issue that not enough employers are addressing – the multi-generational workplace – and it’s grounded in a particular issue, which is that remuneration strategies just don’t suit younger workers any more. Another article that was engaging was Do we really need managers? – it’s a hard-hitting piece asking serious questions and we try to keep the discussion as hard-hitting as possible on HRZone. In terms of articles that I wrote, my favourite was this one on the name the Science Museum has given their staff members. I just think it’s such a great name that I couldn’t not write about it! It got a pretty positive response too. I also liked the one on the Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence, based on some funky research that got published in the States – this one was actually in the top three most read of the year.

Q: What do you expect the hot topics will be amongst your community members in the year head?

JL: Getting to grips with engagement will still be a big topic among our members. Coming up with a viable alternative to traditional performance management approaches will also come into vogue this year as companies look to better develop and retain talent as younger workers enter the marketplace. Everyone knows there’s a better way to do performance management and appraisals but everyone also knows there are only so many hours in the day and everyone’s busy. How do you find a new way of doing it that doesn’t take up too much time but gets the results you want? It’s a massive question and will take a long time to work through.

Q: Tell us a little about your community members and how your site supports them.

JL: We have a diverse audience, many of whom are strategic HR directors in small, medium and large companies, which is why we focus a lot of content on HR strategy fit for the future. These professionals are expected to be clued up on HR innovation and how HR needs to communicate with the rest of the business as well as the latest thinking when it comes to developing strategies that achieve the best outcomes. We also cater to HR managers and HR assistants who may be focused on specific areas of HR, such as talent management and recruitment, and those dealing with compliance and process and the day-to-day activities of running a busy HR department. For these people the practical, easy-to-follow advice is very important as it helps them get the most out of the activities they undertake every day. In terms of industries, we run the whole gamut – most of our members are in the private sector but we also have those in the public, not-for-profit and charity and academic sectors.

Q: Why do you think people keep coming back to your site?

JL: We focus on the user experience which means we continually innovate to make the experience as easy, engaging and as stress free as possible for HR professionals. As I alluded to earlier, we want to deliver the content they want to read without them having to tell us what it is. We try to always keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the HR industries through constantly talking to HR professionals at different levels, going to industry events and reading around the subject. Ultimately we are committed to providing the best possible content in the best possible format and that goes a long way on the internet. We’ve also got a brand new publishing platform, driven by some very swanky technology, going live soon which will be more ‘intelligent’ and will thus help deliver to our audience precisely the type of content they’re interested in. Everything about the new site is designed to engage our audience – it’s a very exciting time.

Q: You’ve worked in digital publishing for some time now, what keeps you excited about it as a media channel?

JL: Succeeding in digital publishing is about innovating because technology is democratising the marketplace. True innovation means you constantly ask questions about processes, challenge the status quo, eliminate grandfathered solutions if they have been superseded and generally stretch your capabilities to deliver something vastly better. Chasing the next viral piece of content, the next publishing model, the next-generation consumer experience – these are the great things about working in digital publishing. Data-driven analytics and how this informs choices is another incredible opportunity. Ultimately it’s about giving the user a better experience than they could imagine if asked what their ideal experience would be.

Getting to know the real Jamie Lawrence…

Q: What was the last book you read and would you recommend it to others?

JL: I’m currently reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman and it’s very good – occasionally you read a genre book that’s just a cut above the rest of the books published in that genre. This is one of them.

Q: If you could hop on a plane now and travel anywhere in the world for a holiday, where would you go and why?

JL: Somewhere in South America. My fiancée and I have been itching to go for a while. I love capybaras and I would love to see some in the wild!

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

JL: Super-strength. It’s probably the most useful without being psychologically-damaging. Would you really want to read minds? Imagine the stress, the guilt, the effect on relationships, etc. Not cool.

Q: If you had to give up one of your five senses (hearing, sight, touch, taste, smell) which would it be and why?

JL: I like to think of myself as evidence-based and I’ve seen research suggesting that overall those who lose their hearing are unhappier than those who lose their sight, but really this is an impossible question to answer. I don’t know which one I’d miss the most. There are things that I love about all of them so I’m sure I’d miss any of them. There’s a guy I see sometimes on the walk to work, confidently crossing roads and navigating around roadworks using a white cane. Every time I see him I feel both grateful for what I’ve got and impressed with his attitude.

Q: Finally, how can we get in touch with you and where can we find you in the world of social media?

JL: I’m always on and Twitter at @HRZone.