What Can You Do With What You Know?

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.

Feel Better to Do Good After #SHRM14

RobinRobertsSHRM14

 

Before I attended my first SHRM Annual, I pondered the important question, “What does Michael J. Fox have to do with HR?” I didn’t understand at that time that SHRM follows a set of specific criteria when choosing its keynotes. (Matt Stollak explains that system here.)

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.’

 

There’s A First Time For Everything, But ROI Helps You Get A Second Time

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.