Baby Steps Are For Infants, Not HR Organizations

It’s been almost 4 years since I fully embraced social media, and 3 years since I started blogging. One of the things I loved about social media from the start was the ability to hook up with a lot of really smart people and hear their thoughts and ideas about business.

One of the recurring themes that I have heard repeatedly during this social media journey is that innovation and movement, whether personal or professional,  requires taking risks and willingness to fail. People in the social media business space are fond of quoting other smart people like Wayne Gretzky (“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”), Frederick Wilcox (“Progress always involves risk. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”), or Jim McMahon (“Yes, risk-taking is inherently failure prone. Otherwise it would be called ‘sure-thing taking.’ “)

So why do we make exceptions when it comes to HR and the adoption of social media? I have been told many times that the adoption of social media requires baby steps, and that I am wrong to suggest that we push our associations and HR business units harder to adopt effective social strategies.

Bullshit.

Real change and innovation in companies, organizations, and associations doesn’t come from acting like a baby who does not have the physical or mental ability to leap. It comes from leaders who are not afraid to leap when it is necessary, knowing that failure is possible but that any failure will bring even more opportunities to learn and change.

Today, Curtis Midkiff, Director of Social Engagement for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), announced that SHRM was a finalist for a 2012 Social Media Leadership Award.  SHRM isn’t a finalist for this award because Curtis took baby-steps to introduce social networking in tiny increments – he took giant leaps since taking his job with SHRM in 2010. Yes, he had some help from volunteers, as he acknowledges in this Facebook post,  but the vision and execution – and risk – was his. From 5 bloggers at the annual conference in 2010, he moved to a massive social media team in 2012, with 100 bloggers, a dedicated space where attendees could get social media training, knowledge, and networking, and a special website specifically for social media news, blogs, and Twitter  before, during, and after the conference.

Those were the decisive moves of a leader, not the tottering steps of an infant who is going to fall down many times, while we all smile and take pictures.

HR and its related organizations should be following this type of leadership, and not making claims that baby steps are a more appropriate strategy.

 

Michigan SHRM State Conference – Rants and Raves

It’s been a while since I have done a rants and raves blog about a conference I’ve attended (this was the first), even though there have been several conferences I’ve been at that I could have ranted blogged about.

I can’t overlook the recent Michigan conference, held last week in Novi, MI, though. I have previously avoided attending the Michigan conference because I have felt that my personal professional development dollars were spent in better venues. But this year my home SHRM chapter, Detroit SHRM, was the conference sponsor, so I felt a little more obligated to be there. Plus, it was held about a 3 minute drive from my Michigan house (still unsold!) so travel arrangements were cheap and easy. Cheap and easy is a huge motivator sometimes. I was also able to volunteer during the conference, which always makes me feel more productive. So here are my thoughts about MISHRM12:

RANTS

No social media presence – At least not much of one. To be fair, the organizers did create a blog site this year, but it contained nothing much but presenter or exhibitor advertisements for their session or booth. There was no useful content or information on the blog at all. There was no Facebook page at all. There were a few brave souls on Twitter (I was one of them). Here’s what one person sarcastically said about the MISHRM Twitter presence:

No, there weren’t even baby steps – more like a comatose baby in a crib. It makes me wonder if anyone from MISHRM even attends and understands their own sessions, since the always-wonderful Curtis Midkiff, Director of Social Engagement for SHRM (the national organization) gave a compelling session on why social media is important. Sad.

Sponsored sessions – MISHRM sold sponsorships of each learning session, so someone from the sponsor introduced each session speaker. BUT – not until after giving a little commercial for their company and why it was wonderful. I hated this with a passion. I didn’t think it was appropriate for people to be forced to listen to a sales pitch before they got what they paid and came for – learning. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Nice theme, but poor execution – The theme of the conference was “The Difference is U”. It was all supposed to be about learning and college/university. A lot could have been done with the theme – encouraging everyone to wear their college logos or colors during the conference, cheerleaders with pom pons announcing things, and presenters and vendors getting into the act. It would have made the conference FUN. But attendees, presenters, and exhibitors still wore their business clothes, with the exception of a “Tailgate Party” at the end of the Thursday session day. Unfortunately, most people left the conference hall right after sessions ended – it was clearly a commuting group of locals who wanted to hightail it home. Allowing people to have more fun during the session day would have held a lot more of them there for evening festivities. Ask Steve Browne the marketing value of letting your theme set your tone, who started his 2011 “HR Rocks” conference in Ohio dressed as a rock star and lip syncing a rock song. People still talk about that conference.

RAVES

Location – In a recent #SHRMChat about conferences, location and facilities was considered to be highly important when planning a conference. I loved this facility because the session rooms were fairly close together, the exhibitor hall was large and spacious with a lot of room to sit, and it was conveniently located right off an expressway. There was no attached hotel, but since I wasn’t staying at a hotel anyway it didn’t bother me a bit, and kept the walking to a minimum. The official hotel was only a few minutes away, and shuttle service was offered.

Location – There was WiFi capability, which put it ahead of many conferences I have attended, and was also rated as hugely important during the previously mentioned SHRMChat. I’m not sure many people were using it (see Rant #1), but it was there. Kudos. By the way, there was also a mobile conference app – which has nothing to do with location but shows that the organizers CAN be up-to-date if they want to be.

Location – Lots of available parking and food service was . . . serviceable. The biggest complaint from attendees was that there were no soft drinks, even during scheduled meals. Being a local, neighborhood girl, I was able to go out for meals and get back in plenty of time. That’s a rave in my book. 😉

 

HRevolution and SHRM – Beauty and the Beast

Every year around this time there is a discussion among my online Human Resources friends about whether to join or renew membership in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

This disagreement exists because many in the online HR community think SHRM is old-fashioned, out of touch, and fails to deliver real value for the dues charged. In fact, the fine HR pros over at Fistful of Talent are so anti-SHRM that they considered holding their own alternative event.  So what prompted SHRM to sponsor HRevolution, an alternative HR event that is full of what China Gorman coined “HR activists”?

Good question.

Last year, SHRM approached the HRevolution 2010 planning committee late in the planning stages, seeking a small sponsorship. It was late when they came on board, and their presence at the event was somewhat limited. Last month, at the 2011 event, SHRM was a much greater presence, even sending Curis Midkiff, their Social Media Strategist, to attend.  According to Curtis, SHRM supports HRevolution because the event offers us an opportunity to participate in an event that brings together with a diverse cross-section of the HR community who are passionate about the profession and are working in various capacities to shape the future of HR.”

To show their commitment to the HR activists that are the heart and soul of HRevolution, SHRM gave away, by means of a general door-prize drawing, two full-access social media passes to their huge national conference in Las Vegas next month. In addition to full session access, the pass allows the holder to access the social media lounge with WiFi, where social media influencers can gather to tweet, post videos and blogs, and connect. At the time the winning names were drawn, those  passes were worth at least $1,400.

I thought this was an incredibly gutsy move on SHRM’s part. They had no idea whose name they were going to draw, and they could have been inviting an anti-SHRM wolf into their chicken coop. In my view, this is evidence that SHRM knows that they have work to do to make themselves relevant to those that are working to shape the future of HR, and are talking some small steps to do so – and there is nothing at all wrong with small steps. As  Alan Mencken and Howard Ashman said in song:

Tale as old as time
True as it can be
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
Unexpectedly.
Just a little change
Small to say the least
Both a little scared
Neither one prepared
Beauty and the Beast.

For the record, I won one of those passes to SHRM 11. Needless to say, I promptly renewed my membership, and I am looking forward to watching the Beast try to transform back into royalty.