News flash! 2009 has officially been renamed “The Year Jennifer McClure Was Able to Raise Her Game by Attending Some Awesome Conferences”. So it has been written, so shall it be done…
This year, I’ve been fortunate to attend several great Conferences and I’ve really enjoyed learning about what’s happening in the world of HR/Recruiting/Talent Management, as well as networking with some really smart people. The most recent Conference I attended – the Ohio SHRM State Conference – was no exception!
The Best of Ohio SHRM
Tory Johnson – Founder and CEO of Women for Hire and author of Fired to Hired kicked off the Conference with the opening Keynote. She shared much of her own personal career success story and talked about the impact of the current economy on organizations. One of the topics she addressed was the importance of marketing and branding in order to attract top talent and at one point, she asked the crowd of 525 attendees (I guessed wrong in my tweet below) how many worked at companies that were using Facebook or Twitter as part of their strategy and only about 20 hands were raised. Gulp. That was an OR question. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. (Yeah, I know. I’m in Ohio. But work with me people.)
The next session I attended was led by my good friend Steve Browne. Steve is an HR practitioner with a fancy title and some letters after his name – Executive Director of HR and SPHR – but he prefers to be called an HR Anarchist and a Seriously Proactive Human Radical. The Clash provided the inspiration for his presentation (that’s a 70’s punk rock band for you youngsters), which covered Confronting Conformity, Liberating Leaders, Allowing Anarchy, Smashing the Silos and Harnessing the Humanity. (Get it? CLASH) Steve’s a fantastic speaker who is passionate about HR and truly wants to inspire HR people to lead in their organizations: “We need to quit being in ‘HR’ – we need to be in ‘business’!”
Another speaker who rallied the troops with his presentation was Pat Perry, President of ERC. Pat’s bio indicates he was named one of America’s Best Bosses and I loved the motto at his organization: “Believe in what you are doing. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. (Or leave.)” So clearly he’s got street cred when it comes to his topic “Straight Talk About Great Workplaces”. Pat proposed that strong employment branding is the future of recruiting, communication is a differentiator of great companies and empathetic leadership (having a heart and soul) is the most critical leadership need. He views HR’s role in the new economy as that of Talent Agent – harvesting, coaching and supporting the organization’s Talent. He’s bullish on right now being one of the best times ever for smart companies to hire some great people – and he believes that starts with HR.
Eric Winegardner – VP of Client Adoption at Monster Worldwide – led an interesting session on “Finding Keepers – Hiring for the Long Term in a Down Economy” and quickly dissuaded any fears that his session would be a commercial for Monster.com. Topics discussed included how to attract “Keepers” (make sure your company is a Keeper), where to find them (some are likely rotting away in your ATS) and how to sell them on your company (know what they have/what they don’t AND what they want). One interesting discussion revealed that in a crowd which included representatives from several mid to large-size companies (a few with over 10k employees), about 2/3 of those in attendance indicated that they didn’t have any type of Applicant Tracking System. And again, when using social networks for recruiting and employment branding was brought up, attendees professed the same level of implementation as in the opening session – virtually none.
My Overall Conference Experience = Thumbs Up
I attended several other good sessions and enjoyed some great networking at the Ohio SHRM Conference. I was able to meet new people and made some good connections that could result in future business opportunities. This was definitely one of the most organized and well-run conferences I’ve been to and the location and amenities provided at the Kalahari Resort were top shelf. Easily accessible free wi-fi, nice hotel rooms and good food all within walking distance to the conference facility (under one roof) gets a thumbs up from me as a first-rate Conference experience!
The Big Takeaway
I left the Conference more concerned than I was previously about HR’s understanding and implementation (or lack thereof) of social media to build their careers and improve their organizations. It’s not that I believe that using social media/social networks is the most important thing going in the people biz, but I just don’t understand how HR professionals (and the companies they work for) can continue to ignore it. I spent a lot of time talking with Conference attendees and was surprised to meet several who indicated that they didn’t even have a LinkedIn profile. Their reasons included not knowing how to get started, companies blocking everything, concerns about legal risks and control – and my favorite: “I don’t ever want to be found on the internet”. (Yes – that was a quote.)
The good news is that the majority of people that I talked to were interested in learning more about how to use social media and I’d like to encourage SHRM Conference organizers (and local chapters) to take a look at their programming and offer some sessions or training to help HR pros get on the adoption curve. While the “hot” networks or tools will likely change in the future, the shift towards building relationships, being open to dialogue and improving engagement with talent pre and post hire isn’t going away any time soon.
Where Do We Go From Here?
What suggestions do you have for HR Conference organizers or your local SHRM Chapters in regards to the types of speakers and programs you’d like to see on the Agenda? Are the masses ready to move beyond employment law and administration topics yet? The Comments are yours…