Confessions of an “HR Influencer”

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Verena Yunita Yapi

I was recently included as a “HR Influencer” by Workforce Magazine.

It was a surprise and I’m grateful to be listed alongside many people I admire in the space. I’m not sure I deserve this recognition, but I do have some thoughts on the article and some of the conclusions it draws.

Credit: Workforce Magazine

The author paints a picture that influencers make up to $150k on their status as an influencer? Come again? I might be doing this wrong. ;)

I have a ton of respect for everyone included on this list. All are solid contributors to the field. Most are good friends.

The views below don’t speak for any of them. They’re mine alone.

I thought it might be helpful to share some of my direct experience, as it runs a bit counter to some of the “cashing in” narrative in the post.

Advisory boards:

I’m on three of them. I’m given a modest equity stake for my time and advice. Let me frame modest for you. One of them was acquired this year. I got a check for $3,500. I easily logged 50+ hours with them. Let’s just say that early retirement wasn’t a driver for this partnership.

What were my drivers? I had a lot of respect for the company, leadership team, and my fellow advisors. I knew I’d benefit from learning more about the industry and field through their global lens. Ultimately, I felt it was a great opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute.


I’m speaking less these days (@6/year) as I’m minimizing travel to spend more time with my family. In the past I’d speak at up to 15 events/year. Maybe 3 of them would be paid (in the $5,000–7,500 range).

I’m a business owner so speaking at a conference takes me away from client work. This means I have to find the balance of ROI on free vs. paid speaking gigs.

This is probably a legit benefit of being an “influencer” as I wouldn’t be paid if the organizer didn’t think my session would draw paid attendees, but paid talks are the exception not the rule (for me at least).


All of the companies I advise are listed on my company website, LinkedIn profile, and are disclosed any time I might recommend them. If I recommend them to a client (or anyone) I disclose I’m an advisor — no exceptions.

I’ll often recommend competitors if I think their products could fit the company’s needs.

I don’t accept any referral fees from any company — whether I advise or not. This allows me to recommend HR Tech because I think it’s good, not because of monetary incentives.


The notion of being an “influencer” always made me a bit uneasy. The way it’s often framed makes it seem disingenuous — like it’s something people seek out and consciously craft.

I was fortunate to do a lot of pioneering employer brand work at NPR back when I worked on the corporate side around 2011. We experimented a lot, had our share of failure, experienced some wins, and learned a lot during that time.

I wanted to share that journey to contribute back to the field so started blogging. That led to speaking, which led to more writing, which led to a book, which led to being included on a list about HR influencers.

My motivation was to try and do cool and impactful work, share it, and give back. That’s pretty much it. It was driven more as a way to honor all those who’ve shared with, or inspired, me along the way.

Have any other questions about what it’s like to be an “influencer” (I’m adding quotes only as the term is applied to me) AMA in the comments below.

Lars Schmidt is the Founder of Amplify, an HR executive search and consulting firm. He’s also the Co-Founder of HR Open Source ( and writes for Fast Company and Forbes. You can find him on Twitter at @Lars.