Best and Worst of SHRM14

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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.

BEST

ORLANDO

 

PointeOrlando

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

CONTENT

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.

WORST

CERTIFICATION

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

 

Geico#SHRM14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

 

SunglassesSHRM14

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

SHRM and Social Media – What a Difference a Few Years Make

#SHRM14

 

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.”

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.’

 

#SHRMChat – March Recap and April Preview

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March Recap

Our March #SHRMChat  on Governmental Affairs was hosted by Lisa Horn,  Director, Congressional Affairs at SHRM. The discussion was spirited and engaging, and every question was enthusiastically discussed. Here is the briefest of recaps, so you can know what you missed, or what type of chat you can expect next time. 😉

 1.  Other than being a CLA, what should motivate chapters and councils to be more engaged in advocacy and public policy?

Most of the answers to this question revolved around two main themes – (1) it helps the chapter or council build relationships with their members, and (2) advocacy and policy is a professional issue, not just a SHRM issue, so all HR practitioners have an important stake in the knowledge and development that advocacy activity creates

2. Is your membership active with SHRM on advocacy efforts such as the A-Team? What are some of the benefits?

Based on the discussions, state councils are far more active in this area than local chapters are. Somewhat surprisingly, most agreed that advocacy involvement is largely individual instead of chapter or council wide.

3. How do you determine which legislative issues are important to your membership? What do you do the address them?

The three most commonly cited methods were (1) polling, (2) roundtables, and (3) bringing in state directors or volunteers to speak at or discuss with local chapters.

4. What activities should your council/chapter engage in to ensure a positive legislative environment for the sector to grow?

There were almost as many answers to this questions as there were people discussing, but my three favorite answers were (1) have at least a short focus on advocacy at every single chapter meeting and educate your captive audience, (2) position your chapter or council as an expert on workplace issues so policy makers will seek out your HR expertise, and (3) invite the legislative staffers for breakfast or to meetings so that they become aware of your HR role in the community.

5. What is the one most important thing that SHRM national could do to help you increase your involvement in government affairs?

There was one resounding answer to this question, and that was that SHRM already has lots of opportunity for chapters to increase their advocacy activity, and that chapters and councils need to reach out more instead of waiting for SHRM to spoon-feed them.

April Preview

Certification is a topic that pops up in almost every SHRMChat, especially those dealing with member benefits, meetings, and conferences.  So in April we will devote the entire SHRMChat hour to the topic of certification. Our chat will be hosted by Ohio SHRM and the long-time SHRMChat advocate Nicole Ochenduski. The questions that will drive our discussion are

  1.  Are you HRCI Certified?  What certifications do you hold and what percentage of your local chapter/state membership are certified?
  2. How do you most frequently receive your recertification credits?
  3. What percentage of your local chapter meetings are approved for credit?  Of those approved, do you pay for speakers that are accredited?
  4. How do you promote certification within your chapter/state council?
  5. What one improvement/suggestion would you give HRCI and SHRM for their certification efforts?

 Join us on Tuesday, April 8 at 8 pm Eastern/7 pm Central!