I usually don’t care too much about the #SHRM Board of Directors vote. I should care – but I’m pretty sure I am not the only uninvolved SHRM member out there. This year is different, though, and I care enough to want to blog about that difference. But my friend Matt Stollak already wrote the perfect post about this year, so why reinvent? And since I know we all get exhausted from clicking through (here’s the link if you feel shamed by that statement), I have just copied and pasted his blog here:
Why THIS #SHRM Board of Directors election REALLY Matters
by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, August 6, 2015
About this time each year, I receive notification that SHRM will be having their annual election for their Board of Directors. I usually gloss over the names, as few, if any, know how individuals are chosen for the vaunted position, and I rarely have heard of those that are on the ballot. When the ballot arrives, I give a quick vote for the slate of candidates, and it really doesn’t register much more on my mind. It’s very hard to challenge the status quo, as the SHRM Members for Transparency tried to do.
However, this upcoming election is different. Why?
While there are many great attributes about Steve that make him a worthy addition to the SHRM Board of Directors, I’ll highlight two:
1. Steve Browne knows SHRM inside out as an active volunteer.
Unlike most candidates for the SHRM Board of Directors, Steve rose through the ranks of SHRM volunteer leader. Not only has Steve served on his state SHRM conference committee, but has served as OHSHRM State Director and President of the Greater Cincinnati HR Association. In addition, he served on the SHRM Membership Advisory Committee (SHRM MAC). Based on this experience, Steve will be an active and responsible voice representing the thousands of individuals who volunteer for SHRM on a regular basis.
2. Steve Browne is active on social media.
When was the last time you saw a tweet from Immediate Past Chair Bette Francis of Twitter? What about current SHRM President and Board member Hank Jackson? Or Jeffrey Cava? It’d be a miracle, because they are not on Twitter. Current Chair Brian Silva? One entire Tweet. The most active member appears to be Jorge Consuegra, who has made a whopping 51 tweets since joining Twitter in 2007. While being active on Twitter isn’t really that big a deal or should be a determinant for Board status, it does demonstrate an active effort to advance the HR profession. Steve Browne has 35,000+ tweets and over 27,000 followers. In addition, he sends out a weekly e-mail called The HR Net (sign up here) that promotes the best in HR. He also blogs regularly at his own blog, Everyday People, as well as a contributor to CareerBuilder’s Talent Advisor Portal. He is one of the most active individuals highlighting what is great about the HR profession and HR professionals.
So, when that ballot does arrive in your e-mail inbox. Don’t hesitate to vote for Steve.
(Many thanks to Matt Stollak for his permission to paste his blog post into mine. He and Steve Browne are basically perfect humans.)
I wrote my first conference recap post – then called “Rants and Raves” – in March of 2010. This has become my favorite blogging experience of every conference I attend, because it really causes me to think about what is happening around me and whether I love it or hate it – or if I am just momentarily in a mood. This is why I always wait a day or two until conference end. And by focusing on just a few items per section, I can really try to look at the big picture, particularly that part of the picture that is really the responsibility in whole or part of the conference organizer. For example, if I don’t make at least 5 new connections (a magic number proposed by Steve Browne on the Smart Stage), that is my own damn fault.
So with that qualifier . . .
The Smart Stage. If I had known this was going to be one of my “best” while I was actually at the conference, I would have made some effort to find out exactly how long it has existed, instead of trusting my senior memory. I think this was the third year of Smart Stage, and someone will correct me if I am wrong. However long it has existed, it just keeps getting better and better.
For those of you who have never been, the Smart Stage is an open stage in a large common area of the conference, usually near the bookstore, registration, info booth, etc. The speakers talk about relevant topics, but in short intervals of 20-30 minutes. Most of the topics are really fun, and the smaller audiences allow for more interaction. As I mentioned above, Steve Browne gave a talk about how to make personal connections while at the conference, and you can believe that he made some of the people connect right there in the audience. I also watched Jonathan Segal give a talk about Mad Men and HR, which had us singing the Coke “Hilltop” advertisement at the end. (If you aren’t a Mad Men fan, I am not going to try to explain this to you. See below. If you are, no explanation necessary.) Even though I have blogged about Mad Men several times (here, here, and here), I still gained insights into some current business practices compared to the 1960’s world of Mad Men.
It’s topics like these that are perfect for the Smart Stage, and I hope that SHRM continues to find the value in programming that is relevant, informative, and meaningful, which may also be fun, engaging, and a little wacky.
Electronic Delivery. They are not all the way there, but SHRM made another big leap into paperless this year by delivering newsletters and papers via email. Their conference app has been around for a few years now, but even more features made it an even more useful tool. I didn’t stay at a hotel on the SHRM circuit, so I didn’t walk out of my room to find a newspaper on the threshold like I usually do. I am crossing my fingers that SHRM didn’t deliver them at all (I forgot to ask), thanks to electronic delivery. But my inclusion as a “best” comes with a caveat – quit giving attendees paper anything. Force them to become more environmentally friendly and to embrace better business concepts. If you make them use the app and read information electronically, SHRM starts walking the walk. Given the frequent complaint that attendees slow down the flow of people by using their electronics – one woman stopped and started texting right in front of an escalator immediately after a general session – SHRM shouldn’t take any complaints of electronic incompetency too seriously.
There is another benefit of going totally digital – you wouldn’t need to get a sponsor to pay for all of those useless tote bags. I tried to donate my tote on Tuesday and wandered to the registration looking for the donation box (there has been one at other conferences). I couldn’t find it, but there were hundreds and hundreds of bags on tables behind the registration desk. SHRM should be environmentally aware of the cost, in fossil fuels, of those bags to be made and trucked in. Just because someone else paid the bill doesn’t absolve SHRM from responsibility for the destruction caused by their needless presence.
#SHRM15Blogger.The inclusion of this category as a “best” may strike you as unfair, so it probably is on some level. But the bloggers really drive a lot of conversation out into the world at large. Once again, “hashtagSHRMyear” was made a trending topic – no easy feat. And while many people are tweeting, a lot of those tweets are from outsiders seeing the excellent content that the bloggers tend to put up on twitter and repeating it. More exposure for SHRM and the conference is always a good thing. So I would like to personally thank Dice for sponsoring us, and SHRM’s Amy Thompson, Andrew Morton, and Mary Kaylor for doing things in the lounge that were engaging and delightful. Bringing in a caricaturist for everyone to sit for was my favorite perk, and I am told that was Mary’s idea specifically. Sell those things on the convention floor next year as a fundraiser for SHRM Foundation. I had a lot of people ask where mine came from.
Las Vegas As a Venue. It was crowded. Hot. Expensive. And I generally like Las Vegas. But as a SHRM Annual site it sucked. “Hot” means over 100 degrees, every single damn day. I personally didn’t have to walk much outside, but my heart was crying for those people who even had to travel to the hotel next door for a bus. In Vegas, the hotel next door is a long way away. No wonder the cab line was about 100 people long when I left the convention center on Monday. How hot was it standing there waiting?
Expensive in Vegas isn’t about room rates, although that was pretty bad. My personal example is Starbucks. In sunny (and much cooler) Naples, Florida I pay $3.13 every single day for the iced tea that I drink. In Vegas, I paid $5.00. How much were other things marked up there? I’m not sure, but Vegas being what it is, my guess is everything was. A lot. Quit being an elitist organization, SHRM, and embrace everyone who needs you. Lots of pros need you and can’t afford you, and Las Vegas proves that.
Sugar Overdose.Besides experiencing this myself, I had several people specifically mention it to me, which validates it for inclusion here, it in my opinion. And I am not talking about iced tea (which I drink sweetener-free). I am talking about session content.
I have no problem with keynote speakers being cheerleaders – what SHRM calls “motivational.” If the keynoter doesn’t deliver a certain amount of rah-rah, I am apt to get a bit testy. But once the keynoters have left the stage, the sessions should be about real world practitioners giving usable examples that attendees can take back and implement. Cheerleaders are an important part of the game, but they aren’t on the field or court actually playing it. The players – or attendees – need help. That is the level that the session speaker should work at.
I love the concurrent sessions – it’s the most basic reason I go to SHRM Annual. But other than The Smart Stage speakers I have already mentioned, only one of my session leaders actually delivered specific, real world-usable examples of how to achieve the cheerleaders goal. That speaker was Joe Rotella, who was talking about Social Media Concepts. I am sure there were others, but I can’t go to all of the sessions. SHRM’s job should be to make sure that all of the session leaders are less a cheerleader and more a coach.
Lack of Discussion.The Friday before #SHRM15 started, the US Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that prevented governments from banning gay marriage. Was it too late for SHRM to have a panel discussion around this issue? They claimed it was when I asked a few people. Did they discuss it in 2014? Or 2013? No. But it wasn’t too late in either of those years, so timing was really just an excuse.
I think SHRM needs to get into the education -not advocacy- business about current issues. If they had a panel discussion encompassing several points of view about minimum wage (an issue that affects my industry profoundly), I would have been in the front row with tongue hanging out. Quit telling me why you can’t (something I heard repeatedly), and start finding ways to do. This is the message we should be telling our attendees about everything. Current affairs shouldn’t be different.
“In all my years I have never heard, seen, nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about. Hell yes – I’m for debatin’ anything.” – Peter Stone, writing for the character Stephen Hopkins, delegate to the Continental Congress from Rhode Island, in the musical play 1776.
Last year (#SHRM14) I wrote a blog about how far SHRM had come with its position on social media presentations since my original involvement in SHRM-related conferencing in 2010.
So I wasn’t exactly surprised this year when the sessions included one titled “Social Business: Social Media Concepts Throughout the Employment Life Cycle”. I had heard that the speaker, Joe Rotella (@JoeRotella) was particularly fun, so off I limped to listen to what he had to say. He had a lot to say, but here are the highlights.
I have been complaining about SHRM presentations that do not focus on marketing for quite a while now. I have also implored SHRM to have more sessions that specifically discussed marketing and other business areas for conference attendees. So when Joe asked how many people in the room were “HR pros” and then reprimanded them, indicating we should call ourselves “business pros with HR expertise”, I gave silent thanks.
He then launched into a discussion of how marketers listen and respond appropriately, the large numbers that actually use social advertising, how hard social marketing actually is, and the elusiveness of social media ROI to the marketer. He also mentioned some specific trends, such as image-centric networks, the rise of micro-video, and the use of LinkedIn for B2B growth.
But in the end, he asked the business pros in attendence to CARE about marketing and to think strategically, because otherwise HR ends up being “the department of sunshine and rainbows.” He made sure the attendees understood why marketers built brands and why it was in HR’s interest to do the same.
Joe defined social business as that which a company needs to become, not a description of a feature or business function. It is not a business that addresses a social problem, but the “intentional creation of dynamic and socially calibrated systems, process, and culture.”
In support of the social business, Joe presented statistics from an MIT study which showed how social business sophistication directly impacts traditional HR concerns, such as hiring needs (57% of employees age 22-52 say social business is at least somewhat important in choice of employer), and improving leadership performance and talent management (83% of employers utilizing social in this area).
Joe predicts that social business is business of the future – “connected, adaptive, and intelligent.”
SOCIAL MEDIA AND HR
A large part of Joe’s presentation went through most of the areas of traditional HR functions, and how practitioners could use social media in developing and modernizing those functions. Joe presented specific examples in each of functions such as recruiting, onboarding, training and development, and evaluations. As a former police officer, here’s one of my favorites:
In addition to video, some of Joe’s examples used intranet, blogs, Pinterest, Yelp, and gamification in different areas of the employment life cycle.
By the end of the session, I was ready to jump up and run back to my employer and start adding social media to all of our business processes.
Wait . . . I already do that. But I walked out hoping that the attendees who do not were listening and saw the value of what Joe was saying and were ready to take it back to their business.
A few days before SHRM11, I wrote a blog post about the selection of Michael J. Fox as one of the keynote speakers. I was unhappy about what I perceived as the irrelevance of an actor speaking about HR at a time when jobs were scare and the profession was fighting to maintain some relevancy in the workforce.
I think I was wrong.
I had never been to a SHRM annual conference previously, and I didn’t understand the impact a powerful speaker could have, especially one whose message was uplifting and motivational, even if it is not specifically about HR. And although I missed hearing Michael J. Fox speak (I missed the whole conference), I heard that his message was truly inspirational.
So I formed no opinion about Duke basketball coach Michael Kryzewski (“Coach K”) before today’s opening keynote.
But now I am sad to say he was the worst keynote speaker I have heard at SHRM Annual.
It’s not that he didn’t have many small suggestions for building a winning team, like “make sure everyone feels important”, “embrace the plural”, “have each other’s back”, “you’re good – get better”, and “find the opportunities that are presented.” But these nuggets were interspersed in a disjointed narrative about basketball and basketball players. And the subtext of that narrative was that extraordinary athletic talent only achieved what they did because he was there to lead them to greatness.
That kind of thinly disguised arrogance always aggravates me. As Cole Porter once wrote, “he may have hair upon his chest, but sister, so does Lassie”.
Many of his leaderships examples mentioned the great talent of the 1992 “Dream Team” – the very first Olympic team comprised of professional US basketball players – and how he helped create what they achieved. But he never mentioned the fact that this very team is plagued to this day with controversy about how they were chosen to be on the team and how petty grievances among some of the players possibly caused the exclusion of deserving players. And although he did mention that he was an assistant coach on that team, I don’t think he ever mentioned the head coach of that team (Chuck Daly) or gave him any credit for the team achievments. I would have rather heard Coach K talk about how he helped teach these players how to put aside their egos and become better human beings instead of talking to them about standards that would help them win basketball games, and how he himself was part of a team that achieved that goal.
My apologies to regular readers who haven’t seen me blog in a year. The last quarter of 2014 and the first of 2015 was full of personal problems that killed my desire to blog about workplace issues. Or about anything. But SHRM15 is here, and it is time to take back the night! Or something like that.
TIP #1 – CLOTHING CHOICES
If you are following the #SHRM15 Twitter stream, or reading a few blogs for tips, you have probably read that you should wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater for blasting air conditioners, despite the outdoor Las Vegas heat. Good tips, BUT – no one is telling you to mind your own business when it comes to other attendees clothing choices. Until now. So quit dissing women for wearing capris or yoga pants, or carrying Coach bags. Quit snickering about men who wear cargo shorts and polo shirts. WHO CARES? Wear what you like and can learn best in – and let others do the same. I like to wear dresses and sneakers. If you have a problem with that, it will interfere with your state of mind, not mine. Let it go.
TIP #2 – DO THE WORK
I am addressing this mostly to those attendees whose employer is paying some or all of the substantial cost of attending #SHRM15: work hard and bring value back to your benefactor. Some employers need information from sessions, some will benefit most from you networking with others, and some need the scoop on vendors and products. You decide. But it is almost a certainty that laying by the pool, getting drunk at the bar, or visiting Hoover Dam isn’t helping your employer at all. It’s great to have a little fun, but be mindful of how lucky you are to have an employer who is willing to spend some money for you to be at the conference, and bring back as much real value as you can. And value is NOT cheap freebies from the exhibition floor. Trust me on this.
TIP #3 – FORGET CERTIFICATION
Hey, I’m an SPHR (although I skipped the SHRM certification for reasons not relevant to this post), so I am mindful of credits and wanting to keep the cert you have up to date. But for this conference, forget your certification and just find sessions and experiences that you will learn from and delight you. After SHRM14, I wrote about how SHRM was really trying to expand their offerings a bit to include topics and speakers that were a little new and different. Don’t choose sessions based on how many credits you think you can earn. You can do better.
TIP#4 – THANK A VOLUNTEER
Do you ever approach active military personnel and say “thank you for your service”? Do the same thing at SHRM15. This conference doesn’t run without all kinds of volunteers, and they don’t even get to attend the Tuesday night entertainment unless someone donates their ticket. Show them some appreciation, because they deserve it.
There is no argument. The best part of any conference is the connections you make and renew. If you ask me to name JUST ONE THING that made this conference great, it would be the hugs and handshakes from the people.
But that is the responsibility of the attendee more than the conference organizer, so I am going to ignore that to discuss the best and worst of what SHRM did – or failed to do – to make this conference what it was this year.
I am going to dodge some incoming on this one, because I know not everyone agrees. But I name this one of the best venues for a SHRM conference for some very specific reasons.
Price. I stayed at a hotel within walking distance of the conference center for four nights, and my total bill was only a small amount more than I paid per night in Chicago, site of last year’s SHRM conference.
Restaurants. It was easy to find a restaurant within walking distance of most hotels surrounding the conference center. No cab fare or car needed. Some of the party and club venues were a long ride away, but you couldn’t beat the conference basics nearby.
Weather. It wasn’t nearly as hot and humid as central Florida usually gets in June, and no one had to huddle under an umbrella while waiting for the bus. Ever. Maybe it was luck, but it worked.
While there were still plenty of sessions with names like “Seven Steps to Creating Bulletproof Documentation”, there was a subtle but palpable shift toward content that was a little different – and a touch more innovative – than previous years. One big change was that SHRM started talking seriously about the benefits of social media as well as the risks this year. They also stepped out to embrace previously overlooked areas such as solo HR in small companies.
One of my favorite sessions was called “Effective Public Speaking Strategies”, and it was led by a communications professor – not a consultant or even an HR pro. The message was profoundly important for HR pros, but not limited to them in any way. SHRM needs to do more sessions like this. (Marketing? Marketing? Marketing? Please?)
Also new was The Smart Stage, where twenty minute programs on a variety of topics allowed for broad overviews coupled with intimate interaction with attendees. Some of the social team spoke on this stage, and they reported excellent attendance and feedback from the attendees.
By the time SHRM 14 ended on Wednesday, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to hear this word ever again. It even pains me to write about it, because SHRM talked about their new certification model constantly. Hank Jackson, Betty Francis, and every SHRM staffer who took a stage somewhere mentioned it. But the biggest reason that this was a fail in my book is because all of those people said nothing of substance or importance. It was like the drip, drip, drip of a Chinese water torture.
Along with that mindless cheerleading, SHRM made a another tactical blunder by trying to wipe out every trace of HRCI and the SPHR/PHR/GPHR in the Orange County Convention Center. They said they were supporting traditional certification through the end of the year, but treating HRCI as if they didn’t exist is not supportive in my book. I was ready to forgive SHRM for the shoddy way they handled the initial announcement, but they didn’t own their mistakes or try to fix them. I needed that, because it is about so much more than my personal interest in my SPHR – it’s about how much support I want to give this organization in the future.
SALES EXHIBIT FLOOR
Disclaimer: I am not an expo fan under the best of circumstances.
I often skip the exhibit floor entirely, because watching 25 or 30 people line up to spin a wheel in the hopes of getting a foam football just aggravates me. I also hate the fact that exhibitors tell people via Twitter to “stop by Booth ____ and visit”, but make no real effort to participate in the conference. But this year I had hoped to do some blogging about the exhibits, so I wandered in right after it opened on Sunday to see what I could see.
I saw ridiculous swag like this:
Yes, those are plastic sunglasses that have a logo on the front of them causing the wearer’s vision to be impaired. Don’t give them to your kids. I’m not sure what else you can do with them, and the vendor had no answer in response to my question. This was one of the dumbest giveaways I saw, but there were certainly more.
In short, there was little that was interesting, different, unique, or delightful. I met with a couple of vendors I knew and had promised to visit but the floor was mostly boring, repetitive, and crowded. (Stop texting in the middle of the aisles, folks!)
In fairness, there were a couple of vendors who got it right, especially by doing more on social media to participate in the conference as a whole. One was Career Builder, and one was IBM Smarter Workforce. Take note, vendors!
Agreements? Disagreements? Other conference best and/or worst? I’m listening.
My first SHRM conference was in March 2010, and it was not the big “Annual” affair that I am currently attending. It was the SHRM Legal and Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, designed for lawyers and senior HR pros who have a responsibility for legal compliance in their organizations.
At that conference, I was unhappy to find that social media – which I had embraced about 18 months previously and was enriching my life by leaps and bounds – was a topic of fear, avoidance, and derision. I blogged about that conference, mentioning the story of telling one attorney-presenter who was speaking on social media that I would be tweeting her session. She looked at me horrified and said, “you mean you are going to tell people what I SAY?” Another blogger wrote an entire blog about the lack of balanced presentations about social media, calling on SHRM to do a better job.
Well, it only took four years, but I think SHRM has finally decided that social media is not a crazy, soon-to-disappear fad to be avoided at all costs. Here at the big Annual bash (#SHRM14), there have been several sessions related to social networking and social media, most with a positive outlook about how much good social can do to promote a healthy workforce.
But when I saw the scheduled session with “risk” mentioned twice in its title, presented by an employment lawyer, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my lips started to curl. It sounded like the old fear-mongering SHRM, and I knew there was no way I could miss that session, if only to hurl invectives via Twitter.
But my resumption, based on previous experience with SHRM’s social media offerings, was wrong. Dead wrong.
Jonathan Segal gave a fair, balanced, and delightfully energetic program showing the risks and benefits of social media use to the organization. One example? “Liking” subordinate employees on Facebook is too risky, but adding them as LinkedIn contacts has benefits that outweigh the risks (as long as you don’t endorse them). Another tip discussed the potential value of employee social media posts as both offensive and defensive evidence, advising to document them and hold them for litigation.
Overall the program showed the benefits of social media, the risks of certain social media practices, and ways to mitigate and minimize those risks. There are risks to being risk averse.
And I let out a little sigh of relief, muttering under my breath, “finally.”
Day two of SHRHM 14 started with internationally renowned author, reporter, and columnist Thomas Friedman. Friedman’s presentation focused on the future of business, and more specifically on the changes brought about by the digital explosion and increased connectivity.
One of the best statements made by him came when he was discussing the changing expectations of employers regarding their workforce:
“Know one cares what you know or where you went to school. They care about what you can do with what you know.”
Many writers and bloggers in the HR-based social media space have been advocating that approach for years. I have been hearing pleas for people to change their resumes for at least five years, asking people to quit writing cliched, buzzword laden description of what their job was, and to instead focus on listing specific accomplishments. Tell people what you did – or can do – instead of what your job description said you were supposed to do.
Friedman cited Google as an example of a company that cares what you do with your knowledge, not the source of your knowledge, claiming that 14% of its employees don’t have college degrees. That isn’t actually true, but its close enough to make the point that employers should start looking past paper credentials – if they haven’t already – to create real problem-solving capabilities in their job descriptions. I’ve written about over-blown job descriptions twice before (here and here), imploring HR to consider more specific, actual needs and less boilerplate language.
Tom Friedman may think that employers don’t care about college, but for the most part that day isn’t here yet, even though it needs to be. I hope the HR pros in the audience got that point and quit asking about where your applicants went to school, and start caring about what they can do.
But now I know that a motivational speaker is an important part of the SHRM plan to get attendees motivated and inspired. I’m okay with that – and I admit that I enjoy it.
Yesterday Robin Roberts kicked off SHRM14 with a fun and often touching journey through her life’s joys and struggles. And she offered some wonderful sound bites designed to make us feel good about ourselves, so we can go back to our HR lives elsewhere change things for the better.
“Dream big but focus small”
Have big dreams and ideas, but focus on the details you need to manage to realize them.
“Proximity is power”
If you want to make things happen, put yourself in a position to do so. No one is going to do it for you.
“When you strut, you stumble”
Robert’s momma taught her that one, and she uses it to keep herself from swaggering. It’s more effective to be true to yourself and be authentic.
“Optimism is a muscle that gets stronger with use”
We all have struggles and tragedy. Keeping a positive attitude during those times can help you cope and transform.
“I’m 5’10” and worth the climb”
Yes, she told that as a little joke on herself, but I loved the message: you are powerful and worth it.
Roberts wrapped up her address with a quote from the late Maya Angelou, something HR pros should always keep in mind:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
My first SHRM Annual Conference was supposed to be in 2011 in Las Vegas. The morning I was scheduled to depart, by husband became seriously ill and I missed it. (Gory details here.) But I can easily recall the anticipation and excitement that I felt.
One thing I didn’t feel, though, was intimidated, because in 2011 I was already highly connected – through social media – with HR people from all over the country. I knew a lot of tips and tricks, because my friends had been talking about SHRM11 for weeks.
So I wasn’t thinking about intimidation and disconnection when I walked into the “First Time Attendee Meeting” at SHRM14 this morning. I went in to ask some first time attendees what their motivation was for attending this particular SHRM annual. I’ll discuss those responses in a minute.
But after talking to some of those first-timers, it is clear that there needs to be a better way to help them navigate. There is an app with all the sessions, but the first timers have no idea how to choose sessions, and are intimidated by the number of choices. They know they have to show their employers some ROI, but they are nervous about how they are going to do that. They want to learn more than where the restrooms are and what parties are important. They want to know where to go to ask questions about their concerns, because they haven’t read any of the blogs or tweets that might help them. They want tips that are more specific than “wear comfortable shoes”.
One of the first-timers suggested a special booth or small meeting space where first-time attendees can get specific advice on how to best meet their needs and goals. A smart bar for rookies. Are you listening, SHRM?
Wooing first-time attendees is important to SHRM, because they will drive attendance in the future, and attendance at SHRM14 is down from previous years.
So what motivated the first-timers to be here?
Based on my survey, the large majority of first-timers came because this was the first time their employer was willing to pay for their attendance. And by “large majority” I mean roughly 10 of the 15 people or so I spoke with.
Attendance at SHRM annual is an expensive proposition, and it is nice to hear that there are more companies that are willing to invest money to get their employees there. But unless those employees can show that attendance was worth every dollar when they get back to work, they won’t be returning.
Before SHRM14, one of the social team asked some Facebook friends why they were NOT coming. Most of the responses were the same: no ROI.
ROI. Return on Investment. SHRM needs to do more to help sure that attendees get it and show it.