What it takes to build distributed communities with Lars Schmidt

Building strong communities is more important than ever.

Lars Schmidt's name alongside his headshot

For many of us, the last two years have been defined more by being kept apart, than about sticking together. Isolation has played a major role in our lives, as we’ve been separated from loved ones and colleagues alike. During this time, many of us have longed for a sense of togetherness, community, and shared experience. 

Not so for Lars Schmidt. His enthusiasm for building communities has not been blunted by the pandemic. You could even say he’s been fueled by it. We caught up with Lars on how he has been bringing People Ops leaders together in his endeavors at Amplify, and how any community depends on trust and shared vulnerability to let it thrive. 

Meet Lars Schmidt, Founder and Community Catalyst at Amplify

Lars Schmidt never wanted to start his own business. He started his career as an in-house recruiter in California’s tech world, running the Global Talent team for Ticketmaster, before heading up the Recruitment function at Magento, an open source ecommerce company that was later purchased by Ebay. 

It was not until 2013 that Lars decided to stake out on his own. With Amplify, he was able to share his learnings from years as a leader in People Ops as a consultant for Space X, Hootsuite, Dashlane, and other top tech organizations. Today, he’s focused on developing, connecting, and supporting the next generation of innovative HR leaders through his accelerator programmes and the communities he builds.

What we learned from Lars Schmidt about what it takes to build a thriving, distributed community 

1. Open source HR is here to stay

“The intersection of open source and community is probably the most important thing in People Ops right now.” 

Through his accelerator programme for Chief People Officers and his podcast Redefining HR, Lars gets a front-row seat to new innovations in the People Ops field. From his recent interactions, a strong trend towards open source has emerged. 

Taking its cue from open Source software, open source HR unites People Ops leaders and practitioners to share ideas, resources, and approaches that benefits everyone in a shared ecosystem of “collective intellect”. The days of black boxes and siloed thinking are over. The future of open source HR and shared empowerment are just getting started. 

2. Empathy and vulnerability are key to a strong community

“The best communities are made of people who really care about each other.” 

In the People Ops field, as in many others, we can often feel lonely in our jobs. Particularly for those in senior positions, puzzling out complex business challenges in their organization. Lars observes that what we need now, more than ever, are communities where we can be our vulnerable selves—able to ask for help on thorny issues. 

Lars has learned that the best, most engaged communities are those where people feel safe to open up about their problems. These are not transactional spaces, where people “pop in for an answer to a question, and pop out again” (although those environments do hold value). Instead, it’s about building a space where people can ‘show up’, spend time with peers, and build meaningful relationships, based on mutual trust and understanding.

3. In times of great change, we find great opportunity

“The macro shift we’re experiencing right now is not just learning a new way of working, it’s unlearning the old way of working.”

The last two years have presented us with massive change, in all aspects of our lives. In our professional lives, Lars explains that we’ve been forced to constantly evolve our approach. The one-size-fits-all approach no longer cuts it. Today, we need to apply adaptive, flexible structures to our organizations to keep up with the pace of change. 

But it’s in this period of change that we encounter huge opportunities. We have a real opportunity to reshape and redefine the world of work—perhaps we have a better shot at this now than we’ve ever encountered before in our lives. Now is a time where we can reimagine the workplace to better support our companies, employees, and each other. 

What lies ahead for Lars?

Lars remains energized by his work developing and supporting the next generation of Chief People Officers, both through his media efforts (his podcasts and book) and through his accelerator program. 

His accelerator has hosted three cohorts so far, bringing together over 100 talented people over a four-week learning experience. For Lars, witnessing the development that people undergo and the relationships they form in his program—well beyond the four week period—is a uniquely rewarding experience. 

When it comes to the impact he’s making, whether through his educational programs or the communities he’s building, Lars says he’s just getting started. 

To hear more about how Lars is building community in the digital age, check out this episode of the New World of Work podcast.

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop and take care of a thriving global workforce. It lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

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