Hungry for HR: Insights from the World HR Summit in Azerbaijan

In February, I had the opportunity to travel to Azerbaijan to speak at the World HR Summit. Having never been to Azerbaijan before, I was excited to see a new corner of the world and participate in an event focused on “creating value together.” Organized by the Azerbaijan HR Institute, the World HR Summit took place, for the first time, in Baku’s famed Flame Towers, which punctuate the city’s skyline – a truly breathtaking location.

Though unfamiliar with my surroundings, I found my time in Azerbaijan rewarding, having the chance to experience the country and learn about its culture and customs, geopolitical relationships, and primary industries. This was further enhanced by my time at the event, where I was in excellent company, one of 15 speakers on a roster that also included the summit’s de facto host, Dave Ulrich, and Berna Oztinaz, president of the European Association for People Management (EAPM), along with representatives from Amazon, Deloitte, LinkedIn, the United Nations Global Compact, and more.

Over the course of a single day, my fellow speakers and I dug into pressing issues impacting HR professionals. We looked at global trends and challenges, explored the future of learning and development through the lens of digital transformation, and considered the role of technology in a packed room of more than 500 participants. The day ended with the World HR Excellence Awards, which recognized the teams and strategies helping to advance the discipline. It was a whirlwind trip – in the most phenomenal way.

Now that I’ve set the stage, let’s talk about the biggest lesson I learned in my time in Azerbaijan: The world is hungry for HR. And that’s because this country represents global development. Though Azerbaijan is home to more than 10 million people, many of us might be hard-pressed to place accurately on a map. Likewise, it retains a strong traditional culture as it absorbs Western influences. Ancient architectural treasures sit alongside the modern Baku skyline I mentioned earlier. Its state-funded media broadcasts and publishes in multiple languages. The country is a powerhouse in chess and hosts Formula One races. It also boasts the largest agricultural basin in the region, with two-thirds of its land rich in oil and natural gas.

Azerbaijan is a nation on the move, and like any organization attempting to scale, it needs HR to help line the path and guide the way. And Azerbaijan isn’t the only country in this area that’s seeing growth. In fact, from the World HR Summit and the conversations I had and sessions I attended, it was clear that Azerbaijan is a case study, and others have taken note, flocking to this event to learn and connect with like-minded HR professionals.

I appreciate this hunger for HR. I find it reflective of HR’s value—a value that we create together by partnering, networking, and sharing knowledge. We reinforce this value by opening our minds to new experiences and prioritizing learning for ourselves and the teams we support wherever we find ourselves.

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