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Building a Troop

Human Resources, or the People Function, has never been more critical to a company's success. As the leader of an existing HR community, I had a front row seat for seeing the challenges HR leaders were having and I wanted to do more. I decided to go all in.

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Jan 17, 2024
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Last updated on Dec 31, 2021

Human Resources, or the People Function, has never been more critical to a company's success. Historically thought of as a back office role, HR is now front and center for the success of an organization. Nowhere is this more true than at innovative, quickly scaling startups. I learned this eight years ago while working at a startup in the on-demand healthcare space. Back in 2013, most people were unfamiliar with "on-demand" healthcare so most of our clients were other startups, the early adopters of new technologies. I spent most of my day talking to People leaders at all stages of their careers. Some were seasoned professionals brought in for “rocketship mode” while others were early-career hires that were managing the function on their own. 

The startup world can feel very isolating, especially when your role is often misunderstood within your own organization, often times the roles of Talent and HR are interchanged (especially at early stage orgs) and although they work closely together they are distinct skill-sets. I kept hearing similar problems and concerns from different contacts, and realized there was a need for more connection. I started hosting networking dinners in New York for HR leaders at startups. They shared stories, problem-solved together, and, perhaps most importantly, made friends in what can be a very lonely space. After the first dinner, people kept asking me when the next one was, or if they could bring a friend, or if we’d considered having similar dinners in San Francisco. 

What started out as a small dinner with only my personal network grew to a grassroots nationwide HR community. We met regularly in person to share stories and insights, and I published a newsletter to share what was new in our world. What I loved about attending those events was the range of expertise, what we could all learn from each other and how so many of us were experiencing similar issues. Early career professionals could learn how to advocate for themselves from senior leaders, and senior leaders could learn about new trends and technologies they hadn’t tried yet. We also were filling a very real need. The conversations happening in the group were about the future of HR and focused on scaling organizations. This was a different ecosystem, with unique problems, different from what traditional large, more established companies typically faced.

Then, COVID happened. It changed everything for everyone, but especially HR, and virtually overnight. As every company and employee went into crisis-mode, it threw into sharp relief how crucial the People function was, and how big the gap was between the resources they needed and what they actually had.

As the leader of an existing HR community, I had a front row seat for seeing the challenges HR leaders were having and I wanted to do more. Early in the pandemic, I interviewed fifty people in my existing network to better understand what they were facing. Each conversation was deeply meaningful and highlighted how much HR leaders care about the impact they have: on their companies, employees, and greater communities. 

I also heard three common themes echoed. I learned that many People Leaders have imposter syndrome no matter how much experience they have. Senior leaders with twenty years of experience voiced the same fears as their associates just starting out in their careers. I also learned that they want to be seen more as strategic partners, and aren’t always sure of the best way to go about gaining the business acumen they need to be taken seriously by stakeholders. Finally — and this won’t come as a surprise — HR professionals are so busy taking care of employees that they don’t take the time to take care of themselves. This includes self-care but also putting time and energy into developing their own careers.

At face value, none of this is surprising. HR is a historically underserved industry. Existing tools for HR leaders and professionals have simply not caught up to today’s needs. The future of work has never been more relevant or dynamic, and the HR professionals responsible for executing on these changes are not set up for success. Some of this is because of the nature of the job. HR professionals are often so busy putting out fires that they are unable to take the time they need to work on themselves. And, the fires have gotten bigger (not to mention intensified by COVID). 

Between my interview research and the growth of our in-person community, I knew we could build something that would make a meaningful difference in the lives and careers of HR professionals. And, better HR professionals make better companies and create better experiences for employees. 

I decided to go all in. Our IRL network was rebranded and relaunched as TroopHR in March 2021. Our goals were simple, but ambitious: to elevate HR professionals through education and community. 

EDUCATION: Education programs exist, but they’re topical, not tactical. They focus on senior leadership or on a specific vertical, often compliance. And, they aren’t focused on the unique problems of today, like managing a hybrid workforce. At Troop, we’re creating programming for professionals to learn today and apply tomorrow. Our creators are real world practitioners who have hard-earned insights and can provide an actionable playbook. Troop members are constantly learning through speaker series, office hours, workshops, and more. We’re continuously working to expand our educational offerings — coming soon, Troop Academy! Beyond programming, we’re giving Troop members intentional space to figure out what they want and build a roadmap of how to get there.

COMMUNITY: We love a good informal Slack channel, but there’s no substitute for intentional community. We’ve created a space where emerging and established leaders can come together, problem solve, share resources, and level each other up. We focus on innovative and scaling companies because they’ve been underserved, and because that is where the innovative work in HR is happening. But our members represent all company sizes, stages and industries because no one is immune to the systemic changes in our society. Regardless of their level, we give HR professionals the tools to grow. Emerging leaders can learn from established ones.

From our early live learning sessions, speaker series and leadership squads (our version of group based leadership coaching), I felt that we had something special. When we started to see that 30-40% of our members were referrals, we knew that the Troop member experience was providing a real solution, for this previously underserved group of professionals. 

Our rapid growth has shown me exactly how important this type of education and community are to HR. Our goal with Troop is to level up the entire function of HR. It’s not just about the C-suite or the rising stars but about how HR can be more impactful, more strategic, and more innovative through every stage of their career. Today’s HR professionals are facing new problems and opportunities. Their success affects every company and employee. It is our goal to give them the tools and support to make that success a reality. We are exclusive only in that we are oriented toward the future, toward making those changes, and toward building healthy workplaces. 

We are working together to elevate each other in our professions and to make a social impact on the companies we work for and the employees we work with. #jointhetroop to be part of the change Learn more at troophr.com.

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