I’ve been to 14 HR-related conferences in the last 12 months, with one more to go. I’ve spoken at 10 of them, with one more to go. When I speak, my topic may vary but the foundational message is the same: HR people need to be business people first and HR people second. You can get the gist of my message on a previous post here.
This year I’ve been to and spoken at SHRM conferences and un-conferences in the U.S. that were non-profit endeavors and I’ve been to and spoken at conferences and un-conferences in the U.S. and the U.K. that were for-profit endeavors. And all of them but one share a singular mission: to provide professional development for HR professionals. And they offer HRCI recertification credits by the bushel. That’s a good thing. Every professional, regardless of functional focus, needs professional development. We’re never done learning. Certification and re-certification are important in managing your career and creating credibility.
But there’s one conference that treats HR people like business people.
One conference treats HR people like they impact the bottom line. Like they are business leaders capable of making business decisions. And spending money. And that’s the HR Technology Conference organized by longtime HR analyst Bill Kutik and media partner Human Resource Executive Magazine, an LRP Publication.
The 2011 HRTech conference was held last week in Las Vegas, and was unique in my experience, in many respects.
The most obvious is that vendors, sponsors and analysts are not only welcome, the organizers shine great big white-hot spotlights on them. Other conferences see them as a necessary evil. In fact, one might feel that the primary focus of this conference is giving vendors, sponsors, attendees and analysts a unique opportunity to get to know each other – and if the attendees learn something along the way (and get recertification credit) then everyone wins.
Unlike the nonprofit conferences of all sizes and the smaller unconferences, HRTech is a place where business gets done. All over the place. In the expo, in the hallways, at receptions, at afterparties, in sessions, in the press room, in the venue bars, lounges and restaurants. Vendors, sponsors, analysts and attendees all pitching and being pitched to. Making deals. Buying. The air was electric.
I also appreciate that the organizers hold the opinion that many vendors and sponsors are, in fact, experts in their fields. Putting them on the stage, pitting them against each other, loading them up on panels creates an energy that is palpable. And the attendees learn from state-of-the-art thinkers and business leaders. There were practitioners on the stage, of course. But I sensed the attendees – HR practitioners for the most part – really valuing this real time information about what’s new NOW, what’s coming SOON, and what’s to be expected NEXT YEAR. With a focus on the business. On ROI. On productivity. On impacting the bottom line.
Not exactly where most HR conferences focus.
And clearly the attendees count on this. HR leaders from organizations of all sizes came with shopping lists. The expo felt a little like shopping on Black Friday: lists in hand, attendees came looking for solutions to their organizations’ people problems.
If I were an HR leader and had the appropriate budget, I’d try to go to three conferences a year: a SHRM conference (either national or state), the Bersin Impact Conference, and HRTech. And if I had to pick only one, I think I’d pick HRTech. I’d send my team to as many SHRM and unconferences (like HRevolution) as we could afford.
But I’d be at HRTech.
Because I’m a business person.