A Day in the Life…

One of many things that SHRM does well is to try to evaluate the services it provides to its members. So I wasn’t surprised that SHRM sent me an invitation to evaluate my experience at this year’s Annual Conference in Atlanta. And I tried to be honest. But really, how do you give feedback to an organization that executes its biggest event so well – year in and year out?

But I’ve been thinking about the question that asked what I would recommend for future Annual Conferences.  I gave a quick answer.  And I’ve been thinking about it more and I’d like to expand on my answer.

I suggest having a series of sessions called “A Day in the Life of…”  When I answered the question I was specific: engage one of the CHROs in the Fortune 100 to describe what their job and life are really like as an example for emerging HR leaders to see. We don’t see many CHROs on any stage at SHRM. I understand all the reasons why we don’t see them, but I think SHRM needs to try harder. Presenting a role model in the flesh would be high impact.

But as I’ve been thinking about it, why not also have sessions with CHROs from a privately held company with 5,000 employees, from a public company with 25,000 employees, from a large education institution, from a think tank, from a large national non-profit, and from a pre-IPO tech start-up? Not a panel discussion. A session by each of them, individually.

Not everyone in HR wants to be the CHRO of GE, but some do. Not everyone in HR wants to be the CHRO in a privately-held company, but some do. Show them what it’s like. Show them what it takes to get there – and stay there.

And then I thought, well, how about other functions? What’s it like to be the Chief Marketing Officer in the Fortune 100 – and what do they think about and want from HR?

How about a day in the life of the CFO of a global public retailer – and what they think about and want from HR?

How about the Chief Information Officer at a large privately-held technology company?

And how about the head of Total Rewards in a Fortune 250 company – how did they get there?

The head of Talent Acquisition in a Fortune 500 company – how did they get there?

The Chief Learning Officer in a global hospitality company – how did they get there?

You get my drift. A series of “A Day in Life of…” would put real leaders on the podium to share what works for them and what doesn’t work for them.  How they got there and what they’d do over again and what they would skip. And from everyone:  what advice for emerging or aspiring HR leaders.

Not only would this be interesting for intentional HR professionals, it would be helpful for those who got here by accident and aren’t sure where to go, whether or not to stay, and what is possible.  Holding successful HR (and other) leaders up for conference attendees to hear from and get coaching from might be the next big step in speaker impact that SHRM is looking for.

As with most good ideas, this came out of several conversations I had with HR leaders in Atlanta. Thanks. You know who you are.



Filed under China Gorman, Conferences, HR, HR Conferences, SHRM, SHRM Annual Conference

8 responses to “A Day in the Life…

  1. Pingback: Talent Anarchy /// Speakers. Authors. Catalysts.

  2. I read your post and thought, “what a great idea!” But then I remembered that when I finally figured out what my boss (the CHRO) really did in that day in his life is when I knew that CHRO wasn’t in my future…ever. Then I thought, “what a great idea!”

    • You’re right! 🙂 Knowing what you don’t want is as important as figuring out what you do want. Wouldn’t want anyone to spend 15-20 years trying to get to the top spot only to discover it’s not the right fit at all!

  3. Hi China, I have spoken at National
    3 times- but never on what it is like to be the CHRO (and I have been at 2 very different companies)…I was 1/2 thru a submission to speak next yr- maybe I should change gears and do this as a submission…maybe we should talk off -line (submissions are due 7/15) so we are on the “clock”…good seeing you!

  4. China, I love this idea. I think that it would be really helpful for HR pros to understand what it means to be at the top of the pyramid because it’s very different than what they think. I know that when I finally got “the job” running the department and being a part of the executive team, my role was different than I expected.

    Your post also inspired me to write this one along the same lines: http://talentanarchy.com/2012/07/05/the-shrm-annual-conference-of-the-future-interactive-and-collaborative-learning/

    • Hi Jason — thanks. Love your post, too. Sessions with “open space” is a great idea that’s working extremely well in other smaller HR conferences. The smart folks at SHRM could figure out a way to weave this kind of approach into their content offerings for sure!

  5. Pingback: Talent Anarchy /// Speakers. Authors. Catalysts.

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