I was truly amazed at the size of the bags being carried off the vendor expo floor at SHRM 12. I was even more amazed at how much stuff attendees had managed to cram into those bags. I am not exaggerating when I say that some of the bags I saw would not come close to fitting into the suitcase I brought, even without anything else in the suitcase. What do attendees really do with all of that stuff?

But I was not so smug as to come home from SHRM empty-handed. Most of what I brought home wasn’t truly swag, though, because the items I stuffed into my already-full suitcase were not Something We All Get. With a couple of exceptions, they were gifts. Many were gifts I got because I was part of a blogger team, and some gifts came from connections I made.

Here’s what was important enough to me to make suitcase space for:


1. T-shirts – One is pictured above and was received from for being an official SHRM blogger. There is a Twitter bird logo on the back comprised of all of the bloggers Twitter names, which makes it a keeper. The rubber “Connect Rockstar” bracelet came from as well. I also got a t-shirt from The Starr Conspiracy, but I wore it as a bathing suit cover-up in Atlanta and it was already in the dirty clothes when I took the picture.

2. Meet-Meme Cards – SHRM was nice enough to provide these for the blog team and I had some left over. I am a huge fan of Meet-Meme cards and I use them as my personal business card, so the extras from SHRM were a nice bonus.

3. Rubber Stamp – Also a gift from The Starr Conspiracy to their bloggers. I can’t tell you what it says because it is a super-secret conspiracy, and it is personal and mysterious. I am going to use it on my Freak Flag, though (see #6).

4. Tiny Tote Bag – This actually is swag. I got it from Baudville because I needed a small tote that fit inside the large tote I had been carrying around. I put it to use immediately, taking just my wallet and phone on multiple runs to Starbucks for tea. I also took – and ate – a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting from their booth, which is really my idea of great swag.

5. Social NOTworking – This book was given to me by author Jody Katz Pritikin, who I interviewed for a future blog about employment lawyers at SHRM 12. I missed her session due to a conflict so she gave me her book to read. It has lots of cool pictures, and she likes social media,  so I will definitely read it.

6. CD – This CD of country music was given to me by another attendee, Carol Ann Timmel. She was not a speaker, sponsor, or vendor. We got into a conversation at the Skillsoft  party, and she brought the CD by the blogger lounge the next day.

7. Freak Flag – Most of this flag is white, with just the Talent Anarchy logo in the corner. I missed the Talent Anarchy presentation due to a conflict, but I am thankful that I have seen them present before because they are amazing. They want people to decorate the flag in their own way and then post pictures. I will definitely do that but I need to go to the store for some colored Sharpies to accent my rubber stamp.

The moral of this story is that attendees should choose wisely when deciding what is really important for them to take and keep. Think about how many natural resources and fossil fuels were used making and transporting things that are probably going to end up in your kitchen junk drawer and just. say. no.

What did you take home from your last conference?

Hacking Performance Evaluations at HRevolution

Of all the HR conference sessions and workshops I attended this fall (I wrote about couple of them here and here), the one that spoke to me the most loudly was the Talent Anarchy HackLab at HRevolution. As facilitated by Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt (the team that is Talent Anarchy), session participants were asked to hack an existing HR system.

Wait . . . what?

If you are anything like me, you think that hacking into a system means sneaking and subterfuge in order to create some type of chaos or perform an illegality. On a computer. Not so, explained Jason.  He briefly discussed the evolution of the hack, which in its basic form means to take an existing system and stretch it beyond its original bonds to create a better system. As succinctly explained by The Recruiting Animal while I was live tweeting the session:

So TA offered the group an opportunity to choose and hack one of a pre-approved list of HR systems, accepting the presumption that they were all broken. The group was informed that they would discover some hacks or tweaks that they could take back to their jobs and implement immediately. No asking for approval, no developing a budget.

Despite an impassioned plea (which I fully endorsed) by China Gorman  to choose exit interviews (the whole group had to work on the same system), the class voted – by a narrow margin – to tackle performance evaluations.

So 4 groups of 5 people started discussing performance evaluations – what they should be, what they could be. Groups were instructed to break up and reform 3 times, so everyone could hear and use the ideas from all of the previous discussion. I can’t recreate those discussions here, but I can restate what I found amazing about the process and the end result.

At the end of our time, the whole gathering had essentially agreed on what performance evaluations should and could be. In summary, we found that performance evaluations should

  • be a conversation, not a check mark
  • be in the moment or in real time, not on an annual or semi-annual basis
  • involve managers, customers, co-workers, not just an immediate supervisor or manager
  • be owned by the employee, not HR or their boss
Read those statements, and then go do something in your performance evaluation system that stretches it toward those ideals.  Don’t ask – just do.
Hack it.


ILSHRM11 – A Twitter Success

Patty Grossert is the Human Resources Director at North American Medical Management in the Chicago, Illinois area. She currently has 155 contacts on Linkedin, about 3 times the national average of 60, so she is not an absolute stranger to social networking.

When Patty started a Twitter account in 2009, though, she did what many people do: she tweeted once, then abandoned the account.

That was Patty’s first, and until last week, only tweet.

Then Patty attended the Social Media Boot Camp at the Illinois State SHRM Conference. This pre-conference session, led by Jessica Miller-Merrill, was intended to help HR pros learn the tools necessary to make informed decisions about how and when to use social media platforms.Part of the session naturally covered Twitter. Here’s what happened to Patty:

As read from the bottom up, Patty started tweeting at that pre-confrence session, and she didn’t give up. The coaching and information kept coming, until Patty had become so enchanted with Twitter that she posted the day after the conference was over:

The freak flag reference is to Talent Anarchy,  first day keynote speakers. So not only is Patty tweeting after the end of the conference, but she is referring to something she learned there.

To me, there is no greater measurement of the success of the Illinois state conference than Patty Grossert. The conference planners saw a need for practical, how-to, hands on information in an area beneficial and important to HR practitioners, delivered that knowledge, and encouraged the attendees to use that information before they even left the building. I give all of the credit for this to John Jorgenson, chair of this conference. He saw what was needed, and did it without apology.

Can you say the same about the last conference you went to?