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.