SHRM11 – Day Minus 5 – Michael J. Fox – Rant or Rave?

When it was announced last year that Al Gore was going to be one of the keynote speakers at the 2010 SHRM Annual Conference, the HR web exploded with a firestorm of  negative comments on his selection, and a whole rash of people claimed they weren’t going to attend because of his persona and his politics. I even chimed in on the issue, although my blog post argued against avoiding an entire conference because of one speaker.

So I was a tad surprised when no one seemed to care this year that the speaker chosen to close the conference and send 15 or 20 thousand attendees forward to impact the HR field was Michael J. Fox. Seriously?

Don’t get me wrong – I loved the guy as Marty McFly in the Back To the Future movie franchise, and I applaud him for starting a foundation to address Parkinson’s disease after he was diagnosed with the illness. But in this day and age, when jobs remain scarce and HR is increasingly addressing its corporate relevancy, do we really need to hear a semi-retired actor talk about Parkinson’s disease?

SHRM says Michael J. Fox will “close the 2011 conference with his incredible story; he will talk about his struggle, his outlook on life and how to remain positive, even in difficult times.”

I would rather have a dynamic leader – or several of them – talk about how HR can help create jobs and give  workers a better career experience.  The Dallas Mavericks Cheerleaders Dancers shaking their pom pons didn’t help that team win an NBA championship, organizational excellence did.

I’ll be flying home Wednesday morning and missing his speech, and I can’t say I’m too unhappy about that.


 

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SHRM11 – Rant or Rave?

Society for Human Resource Management
Image via Wikipedia

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I like to write a post-conference post called Rants and Raves, telling what I liked and didn’t about the conference.  You may also know that I am attending the monstrous (15K +attendees) annual conference held by the Society for Human Resource Management in less than a week. For an explanation of how I came to attend this conference with a social media pass, click here.

As the holder of a social media pass, I will be blogging from the conference on a daily basis. At least that’s the plan. Plans change sometimes, as you all know. But being the impatient, and admittedly very excited, soul that I am, I decided not to wait until the official start of the conference on Sunday, June 26 to start blogging. Besides, there are already SHRM11 things that I am eager to rant and/or rave about.

So my plan is to start my daily SHRM blog tomorrow. I will use the same title every day; you’ll have to read the blog to see if I am ranting or raving  that day. Maybe I’ll do both. I’ll be taking a break from SHRM posts on Wednesday to host the Carnival of HR, but then I will be right back.

Stay tuned.

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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.

OHIO 10-MICHIGAN 0

I will step up my efforts with SHRM, local and national, to improve the HR community and help increase collaboration among members.

Sounds a little like a scout pledge, doesn’t it?

This was one of the goals I articulated last year for the Creative Chaos Consultant‘s “Put Up Or Shut Up” challenge (more on that challenge coming soon).  So, during fall conference season, it was reasonably imperative for me to attend my state SHRM conference.  Wasn’t it?

In making my fall conference plans, I discovered that Ohio‘s state SHRM was being held in Sandusky, Ohio, which is actually a tiny bit closer to my home than Grand Rapids, Michigan, site of the Michigan SHRM conference. I could easily and cheaply travel by car to attend either – but attending both was not in my budget or interest.  Looking at the sessions offered became the deal maker.  Here were two of my actual choices, one from Michigan and one from Ohio:

Actual name of Michigan session

Employer CONTROL versus USING social media? Should I learn how to help HR grow up and move forward, or listen to tired practitioners cling to archaic and outdated concepts? Michigan’s choices all seemed to encompass the latter.  I chose Ohio, and I was treated to informative, innovative, and thoughtful sessions.  As Steve Browne, Program Director for the 2010 Ohio Conference said at the beginning of one session, “if you are here just to get re-certification credits, let me ask you one question: WHY?”

I want so much to support my local and state organization, but not at the expense of my personal development.  Next year, I’ll be going back to Ohio.

If you had a choice, which SHRM state or local would you choose to invest in?

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Attitude of Entitlement = Poor Customer Service

Daughter Amy as sketched by a Norwegian Cruise Line employee on the back of a bar ticket (circa 1996)

Customer service is an important issue in the Human Resources world.  As succinctly stated by China Gorman, former COO of SHRM, “As business leaders and HR professionals, we all know about the close relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.”  In the past week or so, China , Trish McFarlane, Mike VanDervort, and Deidre Honner – exceptional HR bloggers all –  have posted about customer service.

I recently returned from a vacation with a desire to write about the same issue, but from a slightly different perspective.  I want to tell you about genuinely helpful and friendly employees who bent over backwards to service my needs, and I am going to theorize why this type of service is so rare that one is surprised and delighted when it occurs.  Especially because it does not involve Zappos. 😉

I went on a cruise.

For 10 days and nights I was aboard a floating hotel city, where my need for food, drink, sleep, recreation, and entertainment was in the hands of one company and their employees.  For those 10 days, I was surrounded by cruise employees with friendly faces and cheerful greetings.  It did not take the wait staff long to learn that I like iced tea a lot, so when I sat down at a table 3 or 4 glasses of iced tea would instantly appear.  My room steward had the sweetest smile and happiest voice ever.  Her “good morning!” always cheered me, even on the day I had a bad eye infection and was running a fever.  It amazes me that she could display such a consistently positive, upbeat demeanor after cleaning my toilet and shower.  I could bore you to death with other examples.

I have been on well over 20 cruises, so I am not a gushing newbie.  I have found that most cruise line employees try very hard to ensure the customer’s satisfaction, although Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) (my recent host), did a truly exceptional job in this area.

So why does the cruise industry, and RSSC in particular, excel in the customer service area when so many other companies fail?  The sad answer, in my opinion, is entitlement.  Many US workers feel that they are entitled to jobs, and many US companies feel they are entitled to customers.  That attitude of entitlement causes both employees and companies to forget that they exist to serve their customers, and leads to the online gripes and complaints that they earned.  Remember Dave Carroll and his broken guitar?

Most cruise ship workers come from economically depressed countries where earnings don’t come close to matching the US and other Western countries.  The workers on my recent cruise -and who I interviewed specifically for this blog – came from Romania, Indonesia, Phillipines, Serbia, and India.  They work for cruise ships because they can earn a lot more money than they can in their countries of origin.  They don’t feel the slightest bit entitled to any job.

Cruise companies aren’t entitled to passengers, either.  Only  20% of Americans have ever been on a cruise, and competition for passengers is fierce.  These companies can’t afford to let lousy customer service make them lose a competitive advantage.

I’m not going to talk about other issues with cruise workers – and yes, I know there are many – in this blog.    Whatever the other issues, I am grateful for the RSSC workers who tried so hard to give me a pleasant vacation experience, and wish more companies and their employees would follow that lead.

Weigh in!  Does an attitude of entitlement foster poor customer service?

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HRevolution – Rants and Raves

Mark Stelzner as Donald Trump - sort of

Back in March I did a post following a SHRM conference called Rants and Raves.  Since I have no desire to re-invent the wheel, and I find that the title is the hardest part of my blog to write,  I am going to take the easy way out and offer this  HRevolution version.  This time, though, the rants and raves are not mine – at least not until the end.  These are comments made directly to me by some of the attendees, and not based on anyone’s blog post or tweet.

RANTS

NOT ENOUGH TIME BETWEEN SESSIONS FOR DISCUSSIONS/NETWORKING/CONVERSATIONS – This was by far the most prevalent and consistent comment I received.  People did not want to miss the sessions, but they wanted time to start and continue substantive conversations.  The tweet-ups, with a party-like atmosphere, were good for meeting and greeting, but they wanted quieter time for serious stuff, too.  When asked, people were willing to attend a 2-day session in order to rectify this.

NOT ENOUGH SPACE – Several people thought that Catalyst Ranch, while fun and funky, was not large enough for the attendees to find spots outside of the sessions to talk or even break out into a smaller group.  A related comment was that there were just too many people, making the sessions a little too large for comfortable discussion.

GENERAL SESSION/TRACK GRIPES – Some people wanted more topics lead by working HR practitioners and directly relevant to daily HR functions.  Some wanted fewer sponsor/consultant/non-practitioner speakers and facilitators. While many of the people I spoke with felt some uneasiness with the sessions, they did not articulate their feelings or dissatisfaction as well in this area (unlike the time and space rants).

RAVES

EVENT PLANNING AND LOGISTICS – As a member of the planning committee, it is almost embarrassing to admit that this was the number one rave I received. People were quick to recognize the work involved and seemed happy with the food, tweetups, transportation, information, and cupcakes.

CHICAGO – Even though there are rumblings on Twitter about having a future HRevolution in Hawaii or Las Vegas, many attendees commented to me how perfect the Chicago location was for them from a transportation and travel standpoint.  They liked Chicago and the choices it afforded them.

CONNECTIONS MADE – Many people came specifically for the opportunity and ability to meet others and extend connections with online friends and acquaintances.  While some wished they had been able to do more, many were enthusiastic about the connections they did make.

Now that I have reported on the most frequent rants and raves made by attendees (to me), I am going to indulge myself  just a little and give you a personal rant and rave (just one each!) because I can only shut up for so long. 😉

PERSONAL RANT

There have been a lot of blog posts and tweets about HRevolution.  Some were positive, some were not. Fair enough.  I get the distinct impression, though, that many people made their feelings known only through a blog post or a tweet. No personal contact with, or email or phone call to, a planning committee member – even though contact information for every committee member was given to every participant. Was this you?  It makes me wonder if some people actually listened to some of the messages that were given about the value of connection and communication.  If you have something to say about HRevolution – good or bad – say it on your blog or on Twitter, but say it directly to the people who brought you HRevolution, too.  You can’t have influence and credibility in 140 characters,  so make a meaningful connection and help HRevolution – and yourself – move forward.

PERSONAL RAVE

I was a very small part of a talented and dedicated group of people who helped bring HRevolution to life.  I learned much about effective collaboration and valuable teamwork from this experience, and I have to thank Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, Crystal Peterson, Steve Boese, Mark Stelzner, and Jason Seiden for allowing me to be a part of this team. I am raving about all of them!

IT’S YOUR CHANCE NOW

I chose not to personally comment on the rants and raves of the attendees, because I want to know what YOU think!  Were you there?  Do you agree with anything?  Nothing?  Do you have other experiences that could help make an event like this better for everyone?

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Broadway Musicals and Al Gore

I like all kinds of live theatre, but I am particularly fond of musical theatre  – what many people call “Broadway musicals”.  I like musicals so much that I read books about them, listen to cast albums, and attend performances at all levels, including local high schools.  I follow many musical-related sites on Twitter; my favorite is @DailyShowtune.

Unfortunately, I am also hyper-critical, which sometimes makes it very difficult to enjoy watching shows.  If a musical takes place in 1958, like Bye, Bye Birdie, and the actors are wearing 1995 shoes, I go a little berserk.  Don’t even think about using a 1960’s radio as a prop in a show set in the 1940’s.  I don’t like the concept of  jukebox musicals (musicals that are written around a song catalog of one artist, like Jersey Boys) at all.  When I see these things, I see so much red that it is hard for me to concentrate on the rest of the show.

So when I am squirming in my seat, trying to ignore Emile de Becque (you know, the guys who sings Some Enchanted Evening)  wearing a Detroit Red Wings tie in a local community theatre production of South Pacific (yes, this really happened), I take a deep breath and say to myself:  What can I find to really LOVE about this show?

Inevitably, I will find something I really love – like the costumes, or a particular performance, or the sets.  Turning aside my critical feelings and finding the good stuff – it’s always there somewhere – keeps me in my seat for the whole show, even though the accepted theatre-goers response to show dislike is to get up and leave.

So what does this have to do with Al Gore? Or HR?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) announced that Al Gore was going to be the featured speaker at their big, brassy annual convention in San Diego in June 2010.  There was an immediate amount of backlash and negative discussion prompted by his selection, including negative bloggers and a highly critical discussion on LinkedIn.  Many people said they would not go to his speech, or to the convention itself, because of his selection.

See the connection?  These people are letting this one small piece of hyper-criticism destroy their love of the whole.  And if they don’t love the whole, why do they care if Al Gore speaks or not?  I hope these people re-evaluate their positions and decide that it is not worth walking out on SHRM Annual just because they don’t like or agree with Al Gore and/or his politics.  If they LOOK FOR SOMETHING TO LOVE, even in his speech,  I bet they’ll find it.  Maybe he’ll be wearing great shoes.

Audience walks out – why do they come back?