Attending #SHRM19 – Respect Your Organization’s Investment

I attended my first #SHRM conference this year and enjoyed pretty much all of it.  I thought it was extremely well organized, the general sessions were interesting and varied, and I gained a lot of value from the event.

Being that the SHRM 19 conference was held in June, I was planning on writing a blog post about it which would have been your basic this is what I liked and this is what I didn’t like – blah blah blah.

Fortunately, a few days after the conference ended, a SHRM19 discussion thread complaining about the conference app caught my eye and got me thinking about how this thread illustrates part of what is wrong in the HR profession and what may be holding the profession back from being taken seriously by our company leadership. It gave me the opportunity to write something different than the typical conference review.

In the discussion thread, an attendee posted a complaint about how disappointed they were because of the lack of a physical paper concurrent session guide and how using the app will unnecessarily deplete their phone battery throughout the day.

There was a lot of agreement in the thread that SHRM messed up by not having the printed guide, and complaining about battery usage, the app being clunky, and the lack of information available (which was all in the app had they looked).

The SHRM Annual Conference is a serious event where, I assume, our most serious and dedicated HR Professionals attend.  It’s not cheap.  I also assume that the majority of these HR Pros want to be taken seriously by their leadership and contribute to the strategic direction of their organization and even earn that elusive seat at the table. I’m comfortable with this assumption because I hear and read about it almost every day.

So when I hear or see conference attendees complaining about not having a printed guide provided for them and not wanting to adopt and use something like the SHRM19 App, I get frustrated that they don’t see the incongruity of their complaints to what they say they want professionally.

Yes, I know I’m painting with a wide brush and making a lot of assumptions but this is my blog and how I am lining things up to make my point!

Here is my contribution to the discussion thread I mentioned above:

The schedule and all the session descriptions were, and still are, on the home page of the SHRM19 website organized by track and with the ability to print everything. One just needed to take a half hour or so before the conference to read, prepare, and plan.  As an effective professional with the responsibility of the +$3,000 investment my company made for me to attend, I prepared ahead of time.

I also spent a few minutes to download and learn how to use the app which became invaluable to me throughout the conference. And I brought a battery charger with me to recharge my phone late in the day (several vendors were giving them away).

SHRM had it all there for you if you would have taken the time to strategically prepare ahead of time.

As HR Pros who want our profession to be taken seriously we need to be strategic, embrace change, adopt new technology, creatively solve problems, and respect our organization’s investment in our development by preparing.

The hard truth is that if we’re not doing these for the little things when we attend the SHRM19 conference, then we’re probably not doing them for the big things in our organization.

This wasn’t a popular thing to say and I got some pushback but I fully stand by my comments and am even doubling down by posting this on HHHR because I feel so strongly about it.

Maybe because this was my first SHRM conference, I made the effort ahead of time to prepare and couldn’t rely on “the way things have always been done.”  But having a strong business background, I think I would have prepared the same way because I also always consider the cost/investment of every event or activity and, as I said in my comment above, I make a point of respecting my organization’s investment in my development by putting forth the effort to properly prepare so I get the most out of it.

I was actually very impressed by the app.  By preparing and getting to know the app in the days before the conference I learned the following things:

  • I can build my daily schedule but “starring” the sessions I want to attend and the will show up on My Schedule in the app.
  • Most of the sessions had the presentation slide deck attached so I downloaded them to my iPad before each session and followed along during the presentations.
  • I could easily find where to go by using the Navigate button that took me to maps of the Convention Center, the Exposition, and the Westgate
  • I was able to search for Exhibitors and quickly find their booth number so I could visit them.
  • I liked being able to read about the Speakers and discover their speaking time to schedule.
  • I was also able to get alerts on my phone and iPad that helped remind me of events an activities.

The app made my first SHRM conference experience a great one!

When your organization is willing to make a financial investment in your development, you owe it to them, and yourself, to make the appropriate amount of time to fully prepare. By doing so you  maximize the benefits of that investment for both the organization and yourself.

Mile High SHRM Annual Conference

Note:  I wrote this post last week but ran into some issues that kept me from finishing it up and publishing.  So I’m posting this now, several days late, and will post it’s accompanying audioblog podcast shortly – hopefully.

mhis-logoLast Friday, January 23, I attended the Mile High SHRM (MH-SHRM) Annual Conference in Denver. The theme of the conference was Mile High Adventure – Ascend the HR Summit.  Pretty clever, I think.

There were six tracks this year: Business and Strategy, Compensation and Benefits, Learning and Development, Compliance and Risk Management, Employee Relations, and Employment and Talent Management.  Multiple tracks are always tough.  There are always two or three that I want to attend scheduled at the same time.  Below I’m going to briefly discuss the five I attended.

The conference started off at 6:30AM with a couple of Early Bird sessions.  The Early Bird session I attended was Sal Sylvester’s “Ignite! The 4 Essential Rules for Emerging Leaders.”  Sal is an excellent and interesting speaker and the hour went by very quickly.  His presentation was about emerging leaders who have recently been promoted to supervisory positions.  This is a common issue in many organizations.  People do a fantastic job in their technical role and are promoted into a supervisory position but have no training or skills in dealing with and managing people.  Sal’s presentation also gave us a look into his People First Leadership model and I’m looking forward to exploring the model more deeply in the near future.

I won his book of the same title during a drawing at the end of the session which is a cool thing for a geek like me who loves reading about leadership, management, and HR!

The second session I attended was Gerry Valentine’s “How to Create a Culture of Innovation.”  Gerry is an excellent presenter who really makes you think differently about leadership and innovation.  Gerry gave advice on how HR can partner with senior leadership to drive business results through innovation.  He suggested ways for HR to become key contributors in our company’s mission, objectives, and strategic goals.  He also reviewed what makes some companies great innovators and what keeps others from doing so.

Gerry discussed several strategies to create an innovative vision of the future.  My favorite suggestion is that companies must establish diverse groups of people in order to have “creative abrasion” when it comes to decision making.  I loved the term “creative abrasion” because too many companies are run and managed by people who think and act alike.  This subjects them to “group think” rather than having somebody challenge them with different ways of approaching a situation.

The third session I attended was Amy Shoemaker’s “HR as a Strategic Partner.”  Amy was high energy and very funny.  I enjoyed her quirky sense of humor as she shared strategies to help HR act and think as a strategic business partner.  Her background as a VP of HR in a large company gives her significant credibility.  She suggested some techniques to build and leverage strategic alliances to gain support for HR initiatives and how to understand what CEO’s need from HR and how to deliver it to them.

The next session was the keynote.  This year MH-SHRM had a panel discussion titled “A Mile High Culture at Work: How to Drive Business Performance Through Culture.”  It was held before lunch as opposed to the end of the day as was done in years past.  I was unable to attend this session because of a conference call I needed to be on.  I’m disappointed I missed it since I heard a lot of folks enjoyed the keynote and were talking about it afterwards during lunch.

I attended the “Labor Law Landmines and How to Avoid Them” in the fourth session.  Three lawyers from Fairfield and Woods gave this session, and one of them, Colin Walker serves on the MH-SHRM board with me.   Each lawyer tackled a topic:  Internal Investigations, Independent Contractors, and Medical Leave.  I was a little concerned about this one since sessions on legal topics by lawyers can be pretty boring.  But I actually found this session to be very good and enjoyed the three presentations and gained some value from each, particularly Internal Investigations and Medical Leave.

The final session I attended was Kristy Smith’s “Tools and Techniques for Managing Employee Relations Issues.” Kristy also had a great sense of humor and I enjoyed her presentation.  She introduced us to the STAR/STAR-AR feedback method to assist in employee relations and foster employee engagement.  Below is a very brief summary of what each letter in the acronym stands for.

ST = Situation or Task.  What was the problem, opportunity, challenge, or task?
A = Action.  What action was taken?
R = Results.  What results did the action lead to?
AR = Action and Results again.  Revisiting Results and Action after explaining the desired results.

Those were the five sessions I attended.  I also spent a good bit of time in between sessions visiting the vendors in the exhibit hall learning about the products they were promoting.  There were several that were very interesting that I plan on exploring in more depth.

So overall, an excellent HR conference.  I gained a lot of practical knowledge that will help me in my day to day work and in my career.

I also want to recognize all the volunteers who worked many long hours to pull this together.  They did a fantastic job and should be very proud of the work they did.

The Mommy Track Bias

In a recent article over at SHRM, they discussed the bias against women and men (but mostly women) trying to re-enter the workforce after taking time off from their careers to stay home and raise their kids.  Most hiring managers and HR tend to think these women have lost their edge in their industry and are, therefore, not strong candidates. They are passed over during the hiring process for candidates who have not taken the time off to raise their kids.  I think this bias is wrong and have first hand experience that supports my belief.

I’m pleased that the article is supportive of these women and discuses the positive attributes and skills that stay-at-home parents acquire during their time raising their kids.

…some HR experts argue that stay-at-home parenting actually imparts skills that prove valuable in the workplace, such as patience, persistence, creativity and reliability.

“Careers for men and women, parents or not, are no longer linear, and an accomplished woman who took a career detour to devote herself to motherhood can still be an incredibly valuable hire,” said Marisa Thalberg, founder of executivemoms.com, a networking site for working mothers.

Matt Brosseau, chief technology officer and head recruiter at Instant Alliance, an HR staffing and consulting firm, noted that “there’s a level of patience and creative problem-solving you can gain only from dealing with a toddler.”

“When parenting, you are often forced to negotiate with someone who may not be reasonable, and that’s a good skill when dealing with unreasonable clients and others,” he said.

In my time as a store manager at Macys, I hired many women who had taken several years off to raise their kids.  The article does claim the retail industry is easier to assimilate than industries such as law, medicine, and IT.  I can easily say almost all of the return-to-work moms turned out to be fantastic hires and very valuable employees.  Many of them ended up being managers for me who have since gone on to very successful careers.  One in particular, is a regional director for a large specialty retail chain store who has thanked me many times for giving her a chance when she was re-entering the workforce.  Several others are now business owners or are in mid to high level management positions within their organizations.

I completely agree with the experts quoted above who emphasize the positive attributes gained by those who raise their kids. In addition to what they say,  stay-at-home parents learn how to juggle multiple priorities while being constantly distracted.  They have strong interpersonal skills in being able to negotiate and deal with difficult people.  They have learned how to manage difficult situations while instilling a sense of fair play.  They have learned how to motivate people to be their best.  And having and raising kids matures and humbles people.

These are all attributes and skills that are valuable in any workplace!

I want to include my wife who recently re-entered the workforce, in retail, after many years of staying home and raising our kids.  Its interesting to note that there were significant changes in technology that she had to deal with and learn but the core basics of retail are still the same.  It took her a little time to catch on the the technology changes but she did.  Along with her outstanding leadership ability, her selling skills, great customer service, and credit production, she is now a very valuable and highly desirable employee.  Her boss has tried to promote her several times but she isn’t quite ready to take that step yet but I know she eventually will and will be very successful.

Bottom line, hiring people who took time off to raise their kids is not as risky as most people think.  Any parent who has raised or is raising their kids should know how difficult the job is and the skills that are developed while doing so.  Sure, there will be a learning curve at first but there is with all new hires.

The bias against people who are trying to re-enter the workforce after raising their kids should end.  Employers are missing out on very skilled, motivated, and dedicated employees by passing them over.

Know Your Busienss Series: The U2013 Global Uranium Symposium

I am attending the U2013 Global Uranium Symposium in Corpus Christi this week.  In addition to manning the company booth and doing some recruiting, I will attend as many sessions as possible in order to learn what I can about the latest in uranium mining.

I strongly recommend HR pros attend the symposiums and conferences relevant to their company’s industry when and if possible.  You will certainly  feel uncomfortable and out of place, especially when people ask you what you do for the company but be proud and confident of your profession when you answer!  Most of them will be impressed that you are making the effort to learn about your company’s business and industry.

It will definitely impress those in your company because you are making the effort and give you a very valuable opportunity to build on your professional relationships with your co-workers.

Gotta go and get set up!  I hope to be back in the next couple weeks with some new “Know Your Business Series” posts.

2013 Wyoming SHRM Conference

I am attending the 2013 Wyoming SHRM Conference – Passport to HR Knowledge – this today and tomorrow and am looking forward to the presentations and meeting new people.  I will not be live blogging since that never seems to work for me but I will be live tweeting throughout the event.

I can’t find a hashtag so I will use #2013WYSHRM.