Why I- And You Should – Love Sponsors

Last week I went to a conference called the Institute for Continuing Legal Education‘s 35th Annual Labor and Employment Law Institute. Given that exasperatingly long name, I don’t think I have to tell you any more about what material the conference covered.  Hundreds of Michigan attorneys and HR pros descend on this conference every year to receive updates, information, and training related to employment and labor law developments.

Even though I have attended this conference several times in the past, this year I paid attention to something totally new.  Something that I either ignored, or, even worse, scoffed at during previous conferences.  This year I paid special attention to THE SPONSORS.

In conferences past, I paid no mind to sponsors.  I always thought that sponsors were money-hungry vultures, looking to make a buck from a captive audience that probably didn’t have a choice about whether or not they really wanted to hear the sponsor’s name or message. Look the other way and walk by fast – that was my motto.

I had a change of heart this year.  Several months ago I was asked to be a part of the planning committee for HRevolution, an unconference of cutting edge, forward-thinking HR topics.  I had been an attendee at the very first HRevolution last November, and I was thoroughly delighted by the experience.  I was humbled when asked to participate, and more than happy to help.

During these past few months of planning, I learned something very critical –  a conference, or even an unconference, costs a lot of money.  There is the facility cost, food costs, programming, signage, badges, perks or prizes (swag), and lots of little things that attendees have come to expect and that good planners want to provide.  The downside is that you can’t charge the full cost to the attendee, or they never would be able to afford to participate.  What can be done?  Ask a sponsor for donations to help defray your costs.

This is why I paid special attention to the sponsors at my employment law seminar last week- they gave money so that I could learn something new.  And this is why I am profusely thanking and loving the HRevolution sponsors.   They are giving money or items or food so that the attendees can gain knowledge and professional development.  They certainly hope for more business, but are not assured in any way of receiving it.  They are believers in the message and goals of HRevolution, and they are opening their hearts and pocket books to prove it.

Sponsors, I have learned, are the angels of the conference world.  The sponsors of HRevolution, shown below, are special angels.   If I ever need the kind of service they provide, I’m calling them first, because I already know they “get it.”   Join me if you can.

Unbridled Talent, LLC

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HRevolution 2010

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

(From “Revolution” by John Lennon/Paul McCartney 1968)

I WAS THERE IN 1968, AND I WILL BE THERE FOR

The HRevolution2010 unconference is coming to Chicago on May 7th-8th!  HR social media thought leaders and practitioners from around the country will be converging for 24+ hours of mind-bending, trend-setting discussions, yet space is VERY limited, so… SIGN UP NOW!

3 reasons why this event will rock:

  1. People. First and foremost, it’s the people – and the crew coming together for this year’s unconference is fantastic. The planning committee for 2010 has arranged for about twice the capacity of last year’s event, meaning HRevolution 2010 will blend old faces with new in an intimate setting where networking relationships can unfold naturally and meaningfully.
  2. Logistics. We’ve locked up a phenomenal and highly professional space for the event that could not be more perfect for an unconference.  HRevolution will take place at Catalyst Ranch, which is one of Chicago’s premier event locations and—bonus!—is centrally located with easy access to hotels, restaurants, and nightlife. Catalyst Ranch is known for bringing a level of fun and sophistication to events that is unparalleled—we don’t recall meeting any other space providers who could so naturally blend “white boards,” “afternoon snack service,” “stereo systems,” and the “Play-Doh for 110 people” into a single conversation. Rest assured, we want you to leave the unconference loving Chicago hospitality.
  3. Topics. The beauty of the unconference format is that it is designed to leave you with practical, useful knowledge. When you get back to work on Monday, and when someone asks you, “What did you get for the money?”,  the answer that flows oh-so-naturally from your lips will blow them – and you – away.   Especially given the awesome $100 ticket price!

So if you’re in HR, or are a manager who truly believes in the power of your people, or if you’re dabbling with this social media stuff and thinking “should I or shouldn’t I”,  or “how do I…” or even “why would I”, then get here on May 7th-8th. You will meet the people and learn the stuff and be in the places that make it all come together.

CONFERENCE(s) CALL(ing)

In all of my lengthy professional life, I had never been to a conference. I had been to plenty of trade shows and training seminars, but a conference – where people actually talked to each other and exchanged ideas – was outside of my experience.  Now that I am unemployed, why am I preparing to sign up for two very expensive HR conferences, spending a fortune in travel, lodging, and meals on top of the registration costs, and considering several more?

Twitter.

Jim Mitchem, whose Twitter name is @smashadv, said it best: The best part of Twitter is the humility that comes with realizing that you’re *never* the smartest person in the room.

When I got really involved in Twitter late last summer, I learned that there was a whole group of highly intelligent HR and recruiting pros online that were willing to share their knowledge and insights.   When some of those pros hosted an “unconference” called HRevolution, with the idea that the exchange and engagement from Twitter would come alive, I knew I had to go.

HRevolution was electrifying for me. It was a non-stop exchange of ideas about a profession amongst highly intelligent practitioners, and I was instantly addicted. Now I crave more, because

There are BRILLIANT people that speak at these events—and even MORE brilliant people that are present and networking. MANY of these people have not joined the dialog in our beloved Social Media—but that means NOTHING about the level of knowledge and expertise they have to offer.

That quote, from Monster.com‘s Eric Weingardner (@ewmonster on Twitter), says it all for me.  I’m going to start out with the Employment Law &  Legislative Update given by SHRM, then attend HRevolution in May.  I’m taking advantage of early registration for SHRM 2010, their June annual conference.  I’m sure there will be more along the way, and I am happy to take suggestions.

How about you?  Want to plug your HR Conference or talk about your conference plans?

HRevolution – The Future of HR

Saturday afternoon the gloves came off.

The last session of the HRevolution un-conference, introduced in my previous blog, was called “The Future of HR”.  It was facilitated by the incomparable Mark Stelzner, whose admitted purpose was “to be provocative and shake the room up a bit.”  His mission was well accomplished, and the passionate discussion was described by @KristaFrancis on Twitter: Great minds *don’t* think alike and that’s a good thing.  Mark summed up the discussion on his blog, but I want to focus on this particular statement:

There was a great discussion on how people need to quit their HR jobs if they are that miserable. In other words, stop complaining and lamenting your non-strategic role and instead find a company that values your contribution.

That “call to action” has been repeated since on blogs (here ), and the HR Happy Hour blog talk radio show.

Ouch.

Why does it pain me to hear and read that people who want to make a difference should just quit their jobs and go elsewhere? Because it’s a strategy that’s far too over-simplified, and the consequences of failure are too dangerous for that simplification.  I speak from personal experience.

My Personal History

I come from a small (less than 50 employees) food processing/manufacturing plant.  My husband and his partner own the business.  When I began working there, no one knew exactly what my role was going to be.  I fell into an HR function almost immediately, because there was NO HR function there at all.  I started learning, and I made myself a HR Manager/Generalist.  I had a seat at that strategic table, usually at the head.  I made those P&Ls sing.

So why did I leave in June 2008?  Because I had a nagging feeling that there was more evolving to be done, and I couldn’t do it where I was.  There is only so far you can go in a really small company before some of the work becomes redundant, and some becomes impossible. So I quit (read: no unemployment benefits) and went looking for a company that would “value my contributions”.

It’s now November 2009 and I have yet to find that company.  Telling a recruiter or a hiring manager that I left my job because “I needed new challenges” makes them hang up on me.  Layoffs and downsizings create sympathy, self-indulgence does not.

I’m lucky – my husband still owns the company and has a job, so I still have sufficient funds to go to un-conferences and listen to people tell me to do what I’ve already done.  But suppose I was a sole breadwinner with kids to support and a mortgage to meet?  That strategy would have placed a lot of other people in jeopardy.  Is Laurie Ruettiman’s philosophy is the better one? She says, ” You get a paycheck. Be happy.”

Going Forward

By sharing that with you, I want to emphasize a point that was touched on at HRevolution but not sufficiently embraced: the enlightened HR group that we are a part of is a very tiny minority of the entire HR population.  The solutions and suggestions we propose inside of our “HR echo chamber”  will not be embraced by them  and will often be actively resisted.  We need to help others examine themselves and their roles to see how they can evolve and revolutionize, even if circumstances and paychecks keep them in their positions.  A large majority of HR pros don’t even know that people and technology exist to help them make this journey.  In other words, they don’t read our blogs.  Until a very short time ago, I was one of those people.

When Alicia Arenas asked us in a video to leave HRevolution with a commitment to spread the message, she mentioned college students and local SHRM chapters as examples of avenues to spread our enlightenment. Let’s collectively think of more, and start an outreach program, because we will not succeed without  converting others. With that in mind, I am picking up the flag of  HRevolution and making this commitment:

I will use social media, personal connections, and any other soapbox that is available to me to encourage, aid, and advise HR Pros and other business professionals to embark on a course of personal development that will expand their knowledge and engage and enlighten others.

By doing this, I hope to move past the idea that HR people should just be happy to get a paycheck.  The people I will try to reach may not be able to leave their companies, but they may be able to avoid doing everything “The Company Way.”  Viva la revolution!

The Company Way




HRevolution – Beginnings

I attended a strange and amazing “unconference” two days ago.  It was called HRevolution and it was a collection of HR and recruiting pros coming together to discuss social media and its intersection with their professional life.  It was the first out-of-town HR conference I had ever attended, made up mainly of bloggers (including Twitter micro-bloggers).  The ideas flew fast and furiously, and I already have several HR University lesson plans in the works based on thoughts generated at the Revolution. Those lessons will have to be spread out over several posts, but I want to start here with some introductory remarks about the Revolution in general:

  • One of the attendees at HRevolution, Frank Zupan, lives and work in Cleveland.  He eats corned beef at a deli called Slyman’s; they buy corned beef made at United Meat & Deli (UMD) in Detroit.  The corned beef is injected/pumped with pickling brine with a machine operated by Joaquin Arredondo.  Joaquin is a permanent resident alien (has a green card) – a status that I helped him obtain as the HR manager at UMD.  That circle (Frank to Joaquin to me to Frank) of connectivity wasn’t created by HRevolution or Twitter, but it was discovered there.  It makes a compelling argument for the continuing exploration of social media, and it slaps the argument that “people only connect on social media because they can’t connect in person” right in the face.
  • Laurie Ruettiman of Punk Rock HR is a true superstar of the HR blogosphere.  Ooohs and aaahs were audible when she arrived, and I am old enough to be her mother.  In fact, I discovered through conversation with her that I am older than her mother. But she, like the other Gen X and Ys present (which was most of the room), was absolutely energizing.  Boomers like me can learn a lot from these smart kids, if we will listen.
  • None of the attendees at HRevolution had met me before; they only knew who I was because of my Twitter presence. Yet almost everyone who knew who I was (because of my avatar) hugged me. It was marvelous because I really like hugging.
  • HRevolution attendees have an absolute fascination with bacon.  I have no idea what the origin of this fascination is, or why it continues.  I am happy to indulge the fascination, though.  The first HRevolution attendee who comments (10 words or more required) on this blog post will receive the book “Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon” as a gift from me.

bacon-book

More lessons to follow; stay tuned!