The Best and Worst of #SHRM15


I wrote my first conference recap post – then called “Rants and Raves” – in March of 2010. This has become my favorite blogging experience of every conference I attend, because it really causes me to think about what is happening around me and whether I love it or hate it – or if I am just momentarily in a mood. This is why I always wait a day or two until conference end. And by focusing on just a few items per section, I can really try to look at the big picture, particularly that part of the picture that is really the responsibility in whole or part of the conference organizer. For example, if I don’t make at least 5 new connections (a magic number proposed by Steve Browne on the Smart Stage), that is my own damn fault.

So with that qualifier . . .


The Smart Stage. If I had known this was going to be one of my “best” while I was actually at the conference, I would have made some effort to find out exactly how long it has existed, instead of trusting my senior memory. I think this was the third year of Smart Stage, and someone will correct me if I am wrong. However long it has existed, it just keeps getting better and better.

For those of you who have never been, the Smart Stage is an open stage in a large common area of the conference, usually near the bookstore, registration, info booth, etc. The speakers talk about relevant topics, but in short intervals of 20-30 minutes. Most of the topics are really fun, and the smaller audiences allow for more interaction. As I mentioned above, Steve Browne gave a talk about how to make personal connections while at the conference, and you can believe that he made some of the people connect right there in the audience. I also watched Jonathan Segal give a talk about Mad Men and HR, which had us singing the Coke “Hilltop” advertisement at the end. (If you aren’t a Mad Men fan, I am not going to try to explain this to you. See below. If you are, no explanation necessary.) Even though I have blogged about Mad Men several times (here, here, and here), I still gained insights into some current business practices compared to the 1960’s world of Mad Men.

It’s topics like these that are perfect for the Smart Stage, and I hope that SHRM continues to find the value in programming that is relevant, informative, and meaningful, which may also be fun, engaging, and a little wacky.

Electronic Delivery. They are not all the way there, but SHRM made another big leap into paperless this year by delivering newsletters and papers via email. Their conference app has been around for a few years now, but even more features made it an even more useful tool. I didn’t stay at a hotel on the SHRM circuit, so I didn’t walk out of my room to find a newspaper on the threshold like I usually do. I am crossing my fingers that SHRM didn’t deliver them at all (I forgot to ask), thanks to electronic delivery. But my inclusion as a “best” comes with a caveat – quit giving attendees paper anything. Force them to become more environmentally friendly and to embrace better business concepts. If you make them use the app and read information electronically, SHRM starts walking the walk. Given the frequent complaint that attendees slow down the flow of people by using their electronics – one woman stopped and started texting right in front of an escalator immediately after a general session – SHRM shouldn’t take any complaints of electronic incompetency too seriously.

There is another benefit of going totally digital – you wouldn’t need to get a sponsor to pay for all of those useless tote bags. I tried to donate my tote on Tuesday and wandered to the registration looking for the donation box (there has been one at other conferences). I couldn’t find it, but there were hundreds and hundreds of bags on tables behind the registration desk. SHRM should be environmentally aware of the cost, in fossil fuels, of those bags to be made and trucked in. Just because someone else paid the bill doesn’t absolve SHRM from responsibility for the destruction caused by their needless presence.

#SHRM15Blogger. The inclusion of this category as a “best” may strike you as unfair, so it probably is on some level. But the bloggers really drive a lot of conversation out into the world at large. Once again, “hashtagSHRMyear” was made a trending topic – no easy feat. And while many people are tweeting, a lot of those tweets are from outsiders seeing the excellent content that the bloggers tend to put up on twitter and repeating it. More exposure for SHRM and the conference is always a good thing. So I would like to personally thank Dice for sponsoring us, and SHRM’s Amy Thompson, Andrew Morton, and Mary Kaylor for doing things in the lounge that were engaging and delightful. Bringing in a caricaturist for everyone to sit for was my favorite perk, and I am told that was Mary’s idea specifically. Sell those things on the convention floor next year as a fundraiser for SHRM Foundation. I had a lot of people ask where mine came from.



Las Vegas As a Venue. It was crowded. Hot. Expensive. And I generally like Las Vegas. But as a SHRM Annual site it sucked. “Hot” means over 100 degrees, every single damn day. I personally didn’t have to walk much outside, but my heart was crying for those people who even had to travel to the hotel next door for a bus. In Vegas, the hotel next door is a long way away. No wonder the cab line was about 100 people long when I left the convention center on Monday. How hot was it standing there waiting?

Expensive in Vegas isn’t about room rates, although that was pretty bad. My personal example is Starbucks. In sunny (and much cooler) Naples, Florida I pay $3.13 every single day for the iced tea that I drink. In Vegas, I paid $5.00. How much were other things marked up there? I’m not sure, but Vegas being what it is, my guess is everything was. A lot. Quit being an elitist organization, SHRM, and embrace everyone who needs you. Lots of pros need you and can’t afford you, and Las Vegas proves that.

Sugar Overdose. Besides experiencing this myself, I had several people specifically mention it to me, which validates it for inclusion here, it in my opinion. And I am not talking about iced tea (which I drink sweetener-free). I am talking about session content.

I have no problem with keynote speakers being cheerleaders – what SHRM calls “motivational.” If the keynoter doesn’t deliver a certain amount of rah-rah, I am apt to get a bit testy. But once the keynoters have left the stage, the sessions should be about real world practitioners giving usable examples that attendees can take back and implement. Cheerleaders are an important part of the game, but they aren’t on the field or court actually playing it. The players – or attendees – need help. That is the level that the session speaker should work at.

I love the concurrent sessions – it’s the most basic reason I go to SHRM Annual. But other than The Smart Stage speakers I have already mentioned, only one of my session leaders actually delivered specific, real world-usable examples of how to achieve the cheerleaders goal. That speaker was Joe Rotella, who was talking about Social Media Concepts. I am sure there were others, but I can’t go to all of the sessions. SHRM’s job should be to make sure that all of the session leaders are less a cheerleader and more a coach.

Lack of Discussion. The Friday before #SHRM15 started, the US Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that prevented governments from banning gay marriage. Was it too late for SHRM to have a panel discussion around this issue? They claimed it was when I asked a few people. Did they discuss it in 2014? Or 2013? No. But it wasn’t too late in either of those years, so timing was really just an excuse.

I think SHRM needs to get into the education -not advocacy- business about current issues. If they had a panel discussion encompassing several points of view about minimum wage (an issue that affects my industry profoundly), I would have been in the front row with tongue hanging out. Quit telling me why you can’t (something I heard repeatedly), and start finding ways to do. This is the message we should be telling our attendees about everything. Current affairs shouldn’t be different.

“In all my years I have never heard, seen, nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about. Hell yes – I’m for debatin’ anything.” – Peter Stone, writing for the character Stephen Hopkins, delegate to the Continental Congress from Rhode Island, in the musical play 1776.


4 Tips for #SHRM15 No One Is Mentioning

My apologies to regular readers who haven’t seen me blog in a year. The last quarter of 2014 and the first of 2015 was full of personal problems that killed my desire to blog about workplace issues. Or about anything.  But SHRM15 is here, and it is time to take back the night! Or something like that.


If you are following the #SHRM15 Twitter stream, or reading a few blogs for tips, you have probably read that you should wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater for blasting air conditioners, despite the outdoor Las Vegas heat. Good tips, BUT – no one is telling you to mind your own business when it comes to other attendees clothing choices. Until now. So quit dissing women for wearing capris or yoga pants, or carrying Coach bags. Quit snickering about men who wear cargo shorts and polo shirts. WHO CARES? Wear what you like and can learn best in – and let others do the same. I like to wear dresses and sneakers. If you have a problem with that, it will interfere with your state of mind, not mine. Let it go.


I am addressing this mostly to those attendees whose employer is paying some or all of the substantial cost of attending #SHRM15: work hard and bring value back to your benefactor. Some employers need information from sessions, some will benefit most from you networking with others, and some need the scoop on vendors and products. You decide. But it is almost a certainty that laying by the pool, getting drunk at the bar, or visiting Hoover Dam isn’t helping your employer at all. It’s great to have a little fun, but be mindful of how lucky you are to have an employer who is willing to spend some money for you to be at the conference, and bring back as much real value as you can. And value is NOT cheap freebies from the exhibition floor. Trust me on this.


Hey, I’m an SPHR (although I skipped the SHRM certification for reasons not relevant to this post), so I am mindful of credits and wanting to keep the cert you have up to date. But for this conference, forget your certification and just find sessions and experiences that you will learn from and delight you. After SHRM14, I wrote about how SHRM was really trying to expand their offerings a bit to include topics and speakers that were a little new and different. Don’t choose sessions based on how many credits you think you can earn. You can do better.


Do you ever approach active military personnel and say “thank you for your service”? Do the same thing at SHRM15. This conference doesn’t run without all kinds of volunteers, and they don’t even get to attend the Tuesday night entertainment unless someone donates their ticket. Show them some appreciation, because they deserve it.


March #SHRMChat Preview – Government Affairs

I started #SHRMChat in the fall of 2011 because I wanted to dialog with leaders in other SHRM-affiliated local chapters and state councils about how to use and promote social media within the chapter or council. Since then our topics have expanded to include a discussion of all Core Leadership Areas (CLAs), concentrating on how state and local SHRM affiliates can improve and expand their competencies in those areas, while continuing to address social media, conferences, and other topics important to chapter leaders.  We chat on the second Tuesday of every month at 8pm Eastern, and I try to have a different SHRM leader act as host each month.

This month our guest host is Lisa Horn, known to many by her Twitter name – @SHRMLobbystLisa. Our topic is “Government Affairs”, a CLA that admittedly troubles many chapters and councils. Lisa is uniquely qualified to host this chat, as her official title at SHRM is Director of Congressional Affairs.

We will address the following questions during the chat, but, as always, please feel free to discuss related issues that are not specifically addressed in the formal questions.

  1.  Other than being a CLA, what should motivate chapters and councils to be more engaged in advocacy and public policy?
  2. Is your membership active with SHRM on advocacy efforts such as the A-Team? What are some of the benefits?
  3. How do you determine which legislative issues are important to your membership? What do you do the address them?
  4. What activities should your council/chapter engage in to ensure a positive legislative environment for the sector to grow?
  5. What is the one most important thing that SHRM national could do to help you increase your involvement in government affairs?


Remember – Join us on Tuesday, March 11 at 8 pm Eastern/7 pm Central. Use the hashtag #SHRMChat on all of your tweets!




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.


From #SHRM13 – The Men of HR



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.



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?






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?



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?





#SHRMChat On Hiatus

Stats from the April 2013 SHRMChat
Stats from the April 2013 SHRMChat


noun, plural hi·a·tus·es, hi·a·tus.

1.  a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.
2.  a missing part; gap or lacuna: Scholars attempted to account for the hiatus in the medieval manuscript.
3.  any gap or opening. (from

When I started SHRMChat in November 2011, I was on the Detroit SHRM board of directors as its first-ever social media manager. I knew I needed some discussion about establishing a social media policy and presence in a SHRM-affiliated local chapter, but the only people to really talk to were people actually outside the chapter.  I called a lot of friends on the phone, but I also knew that social media was the perfect tool to start a dialog among far-flung volunteers of other locals, without waiting for a leadership conference or formal meeting to get, give, share and reject ideas.

A monthly Twitter chat seemed like the ideal platform, so that’s what I started. As my good friend Steve Browne would say, I was geeked.

For a while, it worked exactly the way I thought it would. A small community came together and added their considerable expertise on issues such as conferences, membership, social media, programming, and advocacy. I also had fun.

But lately I have found that I have been struggling to maintain any kind of momentum with SHRMChat. I have a difficult time thinking of themes or topics, and a hard time finding speakers or guests. I no longer have a board position on a local affiliate, either, making me feel like an uniformed outsider.

So here we are, on the eve of the big national SHRM conference, and I have decided to step away from SHRMChat for a while. Yeah, my timing sucks, too.

I truly hope the break isn’t permanent, because I really enjoy the conversations and connections that SHRMChat gives me on a regular basis. I hope to use this interruption to find a way to bring SHRMChat back, with some different leadership and maybe some new blood.

If you have any interest in stepping up, or have suggestions to share, please let me know.

May 2013 #SHRMChat Cancelled

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.” – Jospeh Heller, Catch 22.


I’m beginning to think the gods really are after me. About a week and a half ago I explained a little about some physical limitations that were keeping me away from my keyboard. Since then, things like 6 days of no internet connectivity and sick dogs have conspired to keep me even further away. It is because of those issues that I am forced to cancel #SHRMChat, which should have been held tonight (May 14th). I plan on being back full force on June 11th at 8pm Eastern to discuss the annual SHRM conference. Forgive me now and join me then.

#SHRMChat March Recap


In case you are asking yourself if I made a mistake about including a preview of the April chat, the answer is, “Are you kidding?”  :-)  The April SHRMChat will be hosted by the HR Official Dave Ryan, and he will have the preview and questions on his blog here.

So what happened in March, with our topic of  “What role does and should SHRM and its state and local affiliates occupy in the HR profession?”

 Here is the summary, broken down by each specific question asked:

     1. SHRM national wants to be a professional society and not a membership association. Which is it to your affiliate?

This question prompted my favorite tweet of the night: “If SHRM wants to be a professional society, it needs to push value and not tote bags.” Thanks to John Jorgenson for that response, which sums up the basic attitude of the participants: SHRM’s idea is a good one, but its actions don’t match its message, making most chatters highly skeptical of SHRM’s ability to change the perception of them as a society.

     2. What are the benefits, if any, of a “professional society”? Are they different for a mere membership association?

Most chatters felt that the primary benefit of being a professional society is a large emphasis on professional development of the HR industry as a whole, and not just on the individual development of its members. But while the chat participants were somewhat in agreement that a professional society is more desirable, there was a scattershot discussion of how to achieve that goal with absolutely no consensus of opinion.

     3. Should SHRM and your chapter embrace the middle, or stretch the boundaries of the HR profession as a whole?

Stretching the boundaries of the profession was desired by most SHRMChat people, but there was a sizable minority of people (including me) who had some doubts about the effectiveness of this type of strategy. One of the themes of the dissenters, which ran through the entire evening discussion but was prevalent in this question, was that the size of the chapter has a lot of impact on the ability to embrace some of these forward strategies, with smaller locals at a distinct disadvantage.


     4. How can one association meet the needs of the CHRO and the HR administrator?  Should they?

The majority of the chatters were optimistic that all levels of the HR profession could be reached with one professional society, BUT – and it was a large but, echoing the discussion of the first question, there has to be a very different approach by SHRM than is currently the norm. Several suggestions were put forth, including


“Know your audience and create content specifically for it”

“Have roundtables or other alternatives to address different levels of practitioners”

“Focus on professional development versus a program at a monthly meeting.”


Thanks again to our guests Steve Browne and Donna Rogers for their insight from the SHRM Regional Leadership Conference!

Tune into our next SHRMChat on Tuesday, April 9th at 8 pm Eastern/7 pm Central.

#SHRMChat – February Recap and March Preview



In February, SHRMChat happened to fall on the evening of the State of the Union address, so we teamed up with SHRM’s Governmental Advocacy Team, who was already holding its own #GATChat around that topic. We were fortunate to have Chantral Bibral from SHRM as our guest, and we posted these three questions:

  1. Are you currently engaged in advocacy activities on behalf of the HR profession? If not, why? If yes, what do you find most gratifying about your engagement in public policy?
  2. What challenges or road blocks do you face in your advocacy efforts? How can SHRM help your group become successful advocates on behalf of the HR profession?
  3. What HR public policy issues are most important to you and why?

I am not going to separate the discussion for each question, because the summary of the evening’s chat is simple: SHRM members – at least those represented by chatters who attended – don’t care about advocacy. The answer to question #1 was a definitive “no” – chapters/councils are not engaged because there is not enough time and interest in this area to do anything meaningful. In fact, the word apathy could be used to describe our entire February chat, as well as the attitude toward the topic by those brave few who participated.  I think this topic might be revisited in the future if things change a bit.

I would like to thank Chantral again for being our guest, though. It has been hard for SHRM to embrace unfiltered and uncontrolled social media from outsiders, but they were there and willing in February.

March 2013 Preview

In February, SHRM holds a Regional Leadership Summit for State Council Directors, so while their memories are fresh, I have asked Steve Browne, Ohio State Council Director, and Donna Rogers, SHRM Membership Advisory Comittee (MAC), to be our guests on SHRMChat to discuss issues that may have been brought forward during this summit. Based on that, our March topic will be “What role does and should SHRM and its state and local affiliates occupy in the HR profession?”

These are the questions:

  1. SHRM national wants to be a professional society and not a membership association. Which is it to your affiliate?
  2. What are the benefits, if any, of a “professional society”? Are they different for a mere membership association?
  3. Should SHRM and your chapter embrace the middle, or stretch the boundaries of the HR profession as a whole?
  4. How can one association meet the needs of the CHRO and the HR administrator?  Should they?


Join the #SHRMChat discussion on Twitter – Tuesday, March 12th at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST.

Don’t forget to add a name or three to the “Crowdsourcing SHRM Speakers List here before then!