The Return of #SHRMChat

For those of you paying attention, you will remember that I put #SHRMChat on hiatus in the early part of June, and left its future up in the air. I wasn’t sure of the direction it needed to take, or if I was the one to take it anywhere. Then I went off to the #SHRM13 Annual Conference in Chicago, and spoke with several people who support and believe in #SHRMchat – its need, value, and importance.

Those discussions yielded the following changes in #SHRMChat and its format:

1. #SHRMChat will continue to be held monthy from September through May on the second Tuesday of the month at 8pm Eastern/7 pm Central.
2. There will be 8 scheduled chats per year, plus two special/optional chats, based on the following schedule:

  • SEPT – College relations
  • OCT – Membership
  • NOV – Diversity
  • DEC – Special/As needed
  • JAN – Social Media
  • FEB – Conferences
  • MAR – Government Affairs
  • APR – Certification
  • MAY – SHRM Foundation
  • JUNE – Special/As needed

NO chats in July and August

These chats are based on SHRM Core Leadership Areas that all local chapters and state councils should have assigned volunteer leaders to cover, making them critical to the success of each chapter/council.

3. Each monthly chat will be sponsored and hosted by a state council or local chapter. This will give the council/chapter a relatively simple way to introduce themselves, and their members, to the benefits of social media.

Planning for the coming months has already started, and I urge you to contact me if you and your chapter would like to be involved.

Since September is “back to school” month for all, we are starting off with the topic of college relations, hosted by Matt Stollak (@akaBruno on Twitter), formerly the social media direction of the Wisconsin State Council, and current adviser to the student chapter at St. Norbert College, which was named an Outstanding Chapter at #SHRM13 (one of ten in the nation). His preview blog with questions for the chat on Tuesday, September 10 at 8p Eastern/7p Central is here.

PLEASE JOIN US!

A Lifetime Companion

This post originally appeared in the Women of HR Series:Random Encounters. Check out that site because, as the headline says, those writers have your back. I am re-posting it here as a personal tribute to the dog discussed in the post, who was euthanized last Friday. I will be back with fresh content very soon, including the return of #SHRMChat, so check back or sign up for email notifications.

 

JoanIke2

I used to be a lot of things: politically conservative, impatient, intolerant, and demanding.

I also used to be a shopaholic. To me, going to the mall or a shopping center was as necessary and important as breathing or eating. My husband hated doing errands with me because I would enter a man-centric store with him – like a hardware store – and never leave.

So going to a mall on a Saturday afternoon was not random at all. But on one particular Saturday in the fall of 1999, a trip to the mall changed my life.

I stopped in the pet store, which was near my usual entrance, just to look. I had a dog at home who had been adopted from the humane society, and I certainly wasn’t in the market for another. But I loved to look. Did I say I was just looking?

Inside of one of those cages was a Border Collie puppy.

Maybe it was because my daughters and I had really enjoyed the recent movie Babe  (which features BCs, as they are called), but the sight of that puppy excited me like no other dog ever had.  I called my youngest daughter and said, “Guess what? There’s a Border Collie puppy at the pet store!” She asked if I was going to buy it, and I said, “Of course not.” Then I left the store and went about my shopping.

But for one entire week I thought about that dog. Constantly.

By the following Saturday I couldn’t stand it any longer, and returned to the pet store with my two teenage daughters. I bought the dog (my husband was out of town, thank goodness) and took him home.

And he changed my life.

You have to understand a little about the BC to understand why.  BCs are considered the smartest dog in the world. Consequently, they need special attention – they need to be trained, encouraged, and engaged if they are going to be successful pets. (Yes, just like employees.) So I set out finding a job for my highly intelligent, driven boy.

What I found is flyball. And within flyball, I found a totally new world. It’s a dog-centric world, where the care and compassion for animals is overwhelming. It is a world where people cooperate and encourage each other – at least most of the time – in order to give their pets, and themselves, something special and rewarding.

Author Jon Katz writes about the “lifetime dog”. By his definition, it is a dog that touches your heart in a way no other animal can or does, often at a critical time or juncture.

Ike, as he was named, became a lifetime dog to me. I got him as my children were becoming adults and entering their own world. I was also at a professional crossroads, having left the practice of law and wondering what else I was suited for. Then he took me into the world of flyball, where I learned so much about dogs and animals – their need for care, compassion, tolerance, and their love of play, affection, and attention.

And that laundry list of me that started this post?  Ike, and his ultimate love of flyball, changed all of those things for the better.

The professional crossroads? That’s when I went into HR.

 Thanks to a random encounter of the most wonderful kind.

 

 

 

 

 

The Generation That Will Save Detroit

#DetroitLove
Amy Elliott Bragg, author of Hidden History of Detroit and MC/Toastmaster at #DetroitLove

Last week – July 24th, to be exact – was the 312th anniversary of the founding of the City of Detroit. Not too many people were paying much attention, because most people were  too busy discussing the recent bankruptcy filing by the city and offering their not-so-expert analysis, opinion, and insight, regardless of whether they have ever been anywhere near the intersection of  Woodward and Jefferson.

But there were some who cared about Founders Day, as it used to be called, and knew the importance of acknowledgement and celebration. So celebrations were arranged.

I attended one of those celebrations, called Detroit Love, which was sponsored by an organization called Forward Arts  (with assistance from other Detroit non-profits).

ForwardArts

During that party – and it was a party – I was struck by the fact that almost all of the people in the room showing their love and concern for the City of Detroit were a lot younger than me. In fact, I was pretty sure that I was the only person over 50 in the whole restaurant, with maybe a handful of people over 35.

Almost all of the celebrants belonged to Generation Y.

This generation of young adults,- also called Millennials, Millenniums, or Echo Boomers – gets a pretty bad rap from some sociologists and scholars. They are derided as Generation “Me”, with experts claiming that they are narcissistic trophy kids with a sense of entitlement.

But when it comes to the City of Detroit, they are the generation that senses the need to do something to ensure that the city has the kind of future it deserves. They are entrepreneurs and educators, preservers and promoters, adventurers and optimists. Look at the list of organizations that Forward Arts gave thanks to in the picture above. Almost all were founded by, or are driven and staffed and nurtured by, Millennials.

The problems that face the City of Detroit, including its recent slide into bankruptcy, are complex. They have been decades, not months or years, in the making. They have been smoldering and festering before the Millennials were born.  Gen Y, like Billy Joel sings, didn’t start the fire.

But Baby Boomers and Gen Xers stand around arguing about how the fire started and the best way to put it out. In fact, on the very same anniversary day as the Detroit Love celebration, somewhere between 70 and 100 lawyers packed into a federal courtroom to attend a hearing and argue about whether or not the Detroit bankruptcy filing was legal. While there was no reporting of the generational makeup of those lawyers, I will lay big money that there were very few from Generation Y.

Instead of arguing over how to put out the fire, those kids are too busy dragging in their fire hoses and optimistically working to save what needs to be saved.

Detroit is not going to be fixed by lawyers in a courtroom or a professional financial manager. Detroit will ultimately be fixed by people who believe in her, and are willing to live, work, and play in her boundaries, investing in and promoting her historical and cultural richness.

Right now the only group that seems to be doing that is Generation Y.

4 Reasons Why HR Pros Can Benefit From Candy Crush Saga

CCS

 

Last week some Facebook friends got into a conversation about the video game Candy Crush Saga (CCS). More specifically, their conversation was about spending money to play CCS.

It was very disheartening to me to see these friends – people who work in or around the HR space – make comments that were misguided, possibly malicious. At the very least they were highly judgmental.

 

FBCandyCrushEdit1

 

My first reaction was, “Hey! I don’t pay to play this game,” as if I needed to justify my playing habits to these friends based on their comments. But  then I realized that it really didn’t matter, because I have certainly paid-to-play other video games before. Did that make me “stupid” or an “idiot” as the comments suggest?

Of course not.

But that exchage did make me think about myself, my motives, and my reason for liking and playing CCS, even more than Angry Birds or Bejeweled Blitz (other games I have played a lot and enjoyed). And that reflection made me realize that CCS offers some real developmental benefits – four of them – that I wasn’t able to find in the same degree from other games. And I also realized that the reason I don’t pay-to-play CSS is because the first two reasons below get an even greater workout without the advantage that paid help gives.

1. Strategic Analysis and Implementation of Goals – Each level of CCS has a different primary goal (clear the jelly, fill the orders, bring down the ingredients, etc.), as well as the general goal of highest possible points. In order to successfully complete each level, it is important to consider the strategic movement of game pieces in order to achieve the goals, because the player is also working around obstacles such as limited number of moves, time bombs, and fudge (don’t ask). Those goals, and the strategies necessary to achieve them, are different -and harder – as player ascends each level. Developing strategic skills with an eye toward reaching specific goals is certainly something that all HR practitioners should work at.

2. Dedication and Perseverance – As the player ascends levels, CCS becomes increasingly hard. That, coupled with the fact that players have a limited number of “lives” – or chances to play – means that some levels take a very long time to complete. The only way to get to a new level is by successful completion of the previous level. If you get stuck trying to complete a level it could take weeks – or more – before you are successful. Teaching people to keep trying, over and over, until they reach their goal, is a valuable lesson.

3. Conversation Starter – HR bloggers often talk about the value of connections, and how important it is to make them. I agree! You can’t be successful at HR unless you are a person that likes to talk with people – in the line at the store or in an elevator. So how does CCS help? I often find myself playing CCS in waiting rooms or restaurants, because I live alone part-time and have only myself for company in public. But if I am playing CCS –  with the sound off – someone notices. And other players never hesitate to start the conversation. “Isn’t it fun? Addicting, isn’t it?” “So what level are you on?” At dinner a few nights ago I found myself in a robust conversation with 3 other people about strategies necessary for completion of higher levels. People pay a lot of money to go to HR conferences and have similar conversations. That’s why this comment is just wrong.

FBCandyCrushEdit2

 

4. Deepen Existing Connections  – CCS is really big on Facebook, although it can be played through their website and through mobile apps. I find myself talking to some Facebook friends about and through CCS that I don’t interact with as much by status updates or comments. It reminds me of the diversity of my friends and their different, but valid, interests. Developing deeper bonds with others through CCS acts as a constant reminder that connections are like a garden – they need to be properly tended to or they will wither and die.

Of course, an HR pro could spend a couple of thousand dollars at a major conference to be inspired to do these things, too. But be prepared for someone to say that you are stupid, a deadbeat, or just plain wasting your money. 😉

Do you play? Tell me how you feel about it. Not a player? Do you agree with the Facebook comments? I’m stuck on Level 213. Anyone have any strategies to share with me?

 

 

 

Does HR Have An Identity Crisis?

IdentityCrisis

 

When The Huffington Post recently published a blog by Vala Afshar titled “The Top 100 Most Social Human Resource Experts on Twitter” a small storm erupted about who – and who was not – on that list. But what caught my attention wasn’t the list itself, but the words used to describe some of the people the author included in that list: “organizational development, HR technologies, compensation and benefits, strategic talent development, recruiting, and future of work domain experts.”

In other words, it’s an HR list with a lot of people called something other than HR,  from someone who claims to believe that HR “is one of the most important functions in business.”  So why does he include so many different “areas” of HR? Or are they not areas at all – but different functions that are not really HR but do support it? Because if they are all HR – there’s no need to differentiate, is there?

Think of it this way – if you list the “Top 100 Most Social Dentists on Twitter”, you list dentists – not hygienists, receptionists, insurance billers, or the vendor who sold them their computer programs or polishing equipment. All of those people may be important to and supportive of the dentist and his/her dental practice, but they are not dentists. They have different occupations and titles.

So what is HR? Does it have an identity that we can qualify, or is it whatever hodge-podge of loosely related occupations we want it to be?

Here are a few things that I think make someone an HR pro, without any other label or job description. To be labeled HR, you should have at least one. The more you have, the more weight your HR status would be given.

 

  1. Certification SHRM and its affiliates invest a lot of time and effort into creating standards and tests that make sure  HR pros have at least some actual knowledge of what constitutes HR. Based on my experience with a bar exam and the SPHR exam, I can tell your for a personal certainty that the SPHR exam is hard. If someone took the time to prepare for and pass this exam, they are a pro in my book, regardless of what their actual job is.
  2. Education I’m not a believer in the idea that pros need to have a degree in HR., but I do believe that a college education is necessary. It proves that you have the ability to stay on task and to learn. Using that  lawyerly term again – the kind of degree goes to the weight of your status, not the existence of HR status itself.
  3. Experience – Even if you are not certified or don’t have a degree, you can still be an HR pro if you have done some real HR work for a business that is paying you money to do it. Like fired someone. Or held open enrollment. Maybe counseled and/or trained a manager.  Whatever the experience, it needs to be real experience that HR pros really deal with and learn from (so as to help others). No debates about whether or not HR should be the perfume or body odor police. They often are, so their experience counts. You don’t have to be #TrenchHR now – if you were at one time.

Of course, if you want to be a social HR pro, then your qualifications should be listed or otherwise discoverable through social media. And it doesn’t matter if you are  a pundit, professor, or practitioner, you’ve earned your HR stripes.

Please tell me what you think! What makes someone an HR practitioner, without need for further explanation or title?

From #SHRM13 – Wellness Is Not Negotiable (Revisited)

Wellness#7

 (Special thanks to Dr. Don Powell of the American Institute for Preventative Medicine for his generous permission to reproduce his pictures/slides.)

Last year I wrote a blog with a similar title about the death of Whitney Houston. In that blog, I argued that wellness was not just the absence of disease, but included the spiritual and emotional well-being of the individual. And I stated – and still believe – that our nation’s employers tend not to care about the mental and social health of their employees unless it somehow helps decrease benefit costs.

But wellness has been on my mind a lot recently, because a lot of my friends have been getting sick or dying – and it scares the shit out of me. Yes, I know I am middle-aged – with a very generous definition of what constitutes the “middle” – so a large proportion of my friends are between 40 and death, like me. But they shouldn’t be getting cancer. Or having heart attacks. Not yet.

But they are – and so are a boatload of other Americans. In fact, more than 4 times as many Americans die from heart disease or cancer – the two leading causes of death -than the 3rd leading cause of death.

This happens because many of us have this attitude that it won’t happen to us. Or we are too worried about the present to think about the future. So we do really stupid things that increase our risk. Things like

  •  Smoking
  • Overeating and/or eating an unhealthy diet
  • Failure to exercise or physical inactivity

Every one of those things increases risk of both cancer and heart disease. There are so many risks that the individual cannot control – things like environment and genetics – that it seems incredible that we would actually pile on more.

I’m not excluding myself, either.  I still struggle to eat properly.  I have to calendar my exercise sometimes, or I will just conveniently “forget” to do it. Or I try to negotiate with myself – telling myself I will do better tomorrow, or next week, or next month.

But when it comes to wellness, there is no negotiating. Either you do it right, or you risk dying much earlier than you should.

So what are businesses doing to promote wellness – mental, spiritual, and physical?

During my recent trip to the massive HR conference known as SHRM Annual (#SHRM13), I decided to see if the sellers of wellness programs – who are also the wellness-related speakers at conference learning sessions – actually bought into and promoted  the idea that (1) wellness includes more than the absence of disease and encompasses mental and spiritual well-being, and (2) American companies bear more responsibility to make wellness a priority for their employees.

To do this, I chose to attend a session called “The 20 Essential Characteristics of Successful Worksite Wellness Programs”.  I reasoned that both 1 and 2 above were pretty essential characteristics, and if they weren’t included, then all of the wellness programs in the country were doomed to failure.

The session was led by Dr. Don Powell of the American Institute for Preventative Medicine, and he started off  by telling the attendees his personal road to wellness, starting with his cigarette habit. I liked his tongue-in-cheek discussion of wellness milestones that included this one:

Wellness#1

 

 

and this one:

Wellness#2

 

Then he launched into the things that HR wants to hear the most: the cost of insurance, unwell employees, and the correlation between benefit costs and employee health. Solid stuff, and important for the attendees to know. But I was still waiting for a discussion about mental or spiritual wellness, which I finally got at Essential Characteristic #11 . . .

 

Wellness#3

 

Wellness#4

 

. . . and #16. Number 16 was particularly relevant to me because Dr. Powell introduced the concept of well-being as a replacement for wellness, and urged attendees to consider that a whole-person approach, including spiritual health, was truly an essential characteristic of a company approach to employee wellness well-being.

Wellness#5

 

 

By this time I was pretty happy that Dr. Powell had gone beyond a cost benefit analysis of wellness programs to push the attendees into thinking of wellness in broader terms. But I had to wait until almost the end of his presentation to see if he would ask American companies to take a bigger lead in promoting employee health and well-being. It came in at #18:

Wellness#6

 

 

 

Culture may be a popular buzz word right now, but I think the point is the same – a company needs to take responsibility for walking the talk about well-being. Buying wellness programs to reduce benefit costs just isn’t enough.

What does your company do to promote healthy employees? Your comments appreciated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From #SHRM13 – Quit Judging, Start Loving

 

“To love a man enough to help him, you have to forfeit the warm, self-righteous glow that comes from judging.” – Ron Hall

 

When there are 15,000 paid attendees at a conference, as there were at SHRM13, there are going to be a lot of times when the swarm is all moving in basically the same direction – up or down, right or left. You hear a lot of people say, “mooooo,” because they feel like driven cattle.

 

You also hear and read a lot of tips from people about so-called courtesies they can extend to help keep the crowd moving along at a brisk pace. One of these tips –  I heard it repeatedly at last year’s conference in Atlanta – was to walk up and down the escalators, much like people walk on moving walkways in an airport. This gets people up and down faster, and helps prevent the lines that form in front of escalators, according to the tipsters.

 

At last years conference, though, I was about 8 weeks away from a bilateral total knee replacement, and there was NO WAY I could walk up and down those escalators.  I could barely get up and down out of a chair. So I endured some of the heavy sighs and under-the-breath grumbling I heard, even though it hurt to hear them. I was physically unable to do anything else. But I wondered, and wonder still, if people would have been so quick to judge if they had known my circumstances. Would they have been more compassionate, more loving and forgiving?

 

This year I could almost run up and down those escalators, thanks to my knee surgery. But I had a different problem that reared its ugly head – several times – during SHRM13.

 

The worst time was on Monday night, when a gentleman approached me and said, “Hello, Joan!” I stared at him with a panicked look on my face because I could not remember his name, even though I have interviewed him before and have looked at his picture online several times. I could see the look of surprise, and then disgust, on his face before he finally told me his name. It was clear that he was unhappy. But I have a reason why I forget people’s names, or, sometimes call people by the wrong name. Even people I know well. And it’s not snobbery, or smugness, or inattention, or lack of caring, although people clearly judge me so.

 

I forget or mistake names because almost 15 years ago I had a stroke. It was a mild stroke, and I was fortunate not to lose any mobility or have any permanent speech impairment, although if you stick a pin in the left side of my face I won’t feel it. But that stroke left me with almost no capacity to remember people’s names. I once called my daughter by my dog’s name.

 

My daughter knows my problem and laughed it off, but my professional connection at SHRM13 gave me a withering look of negative judgment. Would he have been more compassionate if he knew of the impaired part of my brain damaged by stroke?

 

But nothing was stopping him from reacting compassionately. Nothing stopped him from saying, “My name is _____” with a smile instead of a look of hurtful disgust. Just like nothing was stopping the people on the escalator from smiling and standing still, even if the crowds weren’t moving as fast as they would like. Their patience would have been appreciated by the person in front of them whose escalator ride was a momentary respite from extraordinary pain.

 

We all know that some behaviors are simply rude or boorish, deserving of negative judgment. But I bet if you analyze it, a lot of your judgments about others are just a way to get a “warm, self-righteous glow” for yourself, without any thought of others.

 

Maybe we can all try to find that glow in love, understanding, and compassion for individual circumstances instead of judging.

 


From #SHRM13 – The Men of HR

SHRMKickball

 

Jeff Pon, Chief Human Resource Officer for SHRM, is a man of HR.

I had the pleasure of re-connecting with him on Sunday at SHRM13, and we had an interesting discussion about the demographics of SHRM members. According to Jeff, SHRM has large chunks of HR practitioners – those in their first 10 years of practice and those at the highest job classifications – who are noticeably absent from SHRM membership.

During the course of our discussion, Jeff also mentioned that 81% of attendees at the conference were women, reflecting the gender make-up of the profession.

But everyone knows – and comments – on the fact that HR is a female dominated profession, so his remarks didn’t surprise me at all. It wasn’t until a little later, reflecting on our conversation, that the proverbial lightbulb flashed on in my head:

I know lots more men in HR than I should, given the statistical domination of women in the space.

And the more I thought, the more I realized that the number of my professional HR contacts was almost evenly split between men and women. How could that be?

It didn’t take me long to figure out the reason: bloggers and SHRM volunteers.

Look at the picture above of the SHRM bloggers who played kickball for charity during the conference. Of those 25 people, 13 are men. Now you might argue that the numbers are a little bit skewed because the teams were designed to be split evenly between men and women. That misses the point that there was an equal number of men available to play, when logic seems to demand that the HR bloggers should be about 80% female.

But there is a pretty even split of men to women among HR bloggers, as you can see by looking at this more casual picture of SHRM bloggers working, and taken before I even had my discussion with Jeff Pon.

SHRM13BloggerLounge

 

I also know that membership in the two SHRM local affiliates I belong to is predominately women, running close to the expected 80-20 split. But the working volunteers and leaders who do more than pay dues (run committees, serve as board directors, etc.) has a much higher percentage of men.

The question that springs to my mind – as usual – is WHY?

When I asked some of my fellow bloggers this question, they thought it was because women were working practitioners with less time to be involved. I disagree with this, because a lot of the men – especially the active SHRM volunteers – are working practitioners, too.

My theory is that women tend to shy away from professional opportunities and development, because “cultural messages undermine their leadership”, as argued most recently by Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean In manifesto. So the “extra” work of blogging or volunteer leadership is dismissed by a large percentage of the female HR pros.

And while I love the conversations and connections I have with these smart and savvy men of HR who blog and those who work so tirelessly for SHRM and its affiliates,  I am a little dismayed that more women aren’t represented, given the larger number of working HR pros who are female.

What’s your theory?

 

 

 

 

 

From #SHRM13 – HR Pros Should Think Like Lawyers

 

Auguste Rodin The Thinker
Auguste Rodin The Thinker

When I was in law school, one of the directives I heard repeatedly from my professors was to “think like a lawyer”. When I became a law professor myself, I would implore my students to do the same.

“Thinking like a lawyer” isn’t an empty catchphrase used to humiliate law students. Search the term on Google and you will find how-to books written with that title, because it is a real skill that needs to be developed for law school – and eventual lawyering – success.

In its simplest form, thinking like a lawyer requires some basic steps:

  1. Pay attention to and analyze everything you see, hear, read and write.
  2. Think about the issue(s) or problem(s) that your analysis identifies.
  3. Use precise logic and specific evidence to support any conclusions about the resolution of the issue/problem.

Jumping through these mental hoops about everything is satisfying for the lawyer or law student, but it can make life frustrating for friends and loved ones who listen to the lawyer logically analyze even the simplest of situations.

But HR pros would be wise to use those lawyerly skills to help them sharpen their awareness of HR-related problems and issues, then using that awareness to confront and solve their HR challenges.

For example:

My first night in Chicago for #SHRM13 was last Saturday. A group of us went to dinner at a restaurant called Dick’s Last Resort. I didn’t know it before we got there, but it became evident early on that the entire staff at Dick’s was either irreverent or downright obnoxious and rude.

Because I was actively engaged in step #1 – analyze everything – it quickly became clear that the staff was behaving like this intentionally.  Thinking like lawyer then helped me identify the HR problem the staff behavior presented:  “How does this company hire obnoxious or rude servers to fit their culture?  Is this a training challenge or a hiring challenge or both?”

I haven’t gotten to step 3 yet, because that is going to take a little more research. But just analyzing the situation and discovering a problem helps me as an HR pro, because the existence of a corporate culture and how to identify it gets reinforced and I get reminded that hiring requires a big look at cultural fit.  By actively engaging in those thinking skills – while I was out having a nice dinner with friends – I can become a more thoughtful, aware HR pro. Researching their specific ways of hiring for cultural fit will give me a practical take-away.

Try practicing this critical thinking skill once every day until you find that you can understand and analyze a situation quickly and succinctly, and see the HR implications or issues presented. You will truly become a better HR pro.

Beware of voicing all of this to your dinner companions, though, because they may not want to eat with you any more. 😉

What’s Fun at #SHRM13?

Starting this Saturday (June 15th) I will be attending the annual SHRM-a-ganza (#SHRM13)  in Chicago, one of my favorite American cities. That should serve to warn you that this post, and several more to come, will be about SHRM. Or something someone discussed, wore, gave away, or found at SHRM13 or in Chicago. Let’s begin, shall we?

 

SHRMChicago

The annual SHRM conference attracts almost 20,000 HR and related discipline professionals to its learning sessions, speeches, discussions, and events. SHRM has a reputation for being a conservative organization, and to a large degree their annual conference reflects that. Most learning sessions have a pretty traditional focus, like “Drive Results with HR Metrics and Workforce Analytics”. Sounds sexy, huh? Vendors? Most of them are old school vendors we know, love, and are totally bored with. They are  HRIS providers, background checkers, and recruiting firms.

But sometimes a function, event, or vendor at SHRM13 jumps out and sounds downright fun.

Here’s what sounds fun to me:

Vendor – Rocket Lawyer

I just love the name of this company, Rocket Lawyer, which provides legal services and/or advice as an employee benefit. It seems to me that it only takes a second or two to say “it depends” when someone has a legal question, which is probably how they got their name. But it is a fun, attention grabbing name, so I think I’ll stop by this booth and see how you can buy lawyer services for “less than the cost of a boxed lunch” as they promise.

Learning Session – Stand Up Comedy

Who would not want to go to a session called “Comedy Training as a Culture Change Catalyst”? Yes, the co-founder of Peppercomm, a NYC communications and PR firm, is partnering with stand up comedian Clayton Fletcher to show HR how leaders should use comedy to engage employees. This should be worth a laugh/look.

Networking Event – Kickball

Yes, there are all kinds of parties networking events at SHRM13, promising food, drink, and the opportunity to get on someone’s email list. In fact, Blogging 4 Jobs keeps tally of these, and currently has 17 such functions listed. I am sure there are others.  But the most original, interesting event has to be playing kickball in Grant Park. Dovetail Software and Dice are partnering to sponsor this event, which is generously raising money for No Kid Left Hungry. I have physical limitations that prevent me from playing, but I was a cheerleader in junior high, so I will be adding my not-so-quiet voice from the sidelines.

Onsite Activity – LEGO

The Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) is having a “playdate”, inviting the HR bloggers and media professionals to build a LEGO mini HR person. I’m not sure if this is going to be available to general attendees of the conference, but I desperately want to build an HR pro out of LEGO bricks. What better way to celebrate the award winning culture of The LEGO Group, acknowledge the importance of HR certification, and spend some joyful time acting like a child again?