Tag Archives: HRFL

How to open an HR conference!

 I’m that voice that’s been saying “Really? Movie stars as keynoters at HR conferences?  Really?  How’s this going to help me be a more strategic business leader?” 

 While I was at SHRM I was successful in influencing the team to select more keynoters who had real connections to business and HR success.  Business thought leaders like Jack Welch, Anne Mulcahy, Ted Childs, John Kotter and Steve Forbes.  I’ve never understood the fascination with movie and tv stars as keynoters at HR conferences – other than everyone loves movie and tv stars.  I’ve held the position that HR conferences should bring relevant business content from real thought leaders to the attendees.  So when I saw that HR Southwest’s opening keynote was a two person comedy/juggling act, I thought, “Oh brother.  Here we go…”

 But here’s the thing:  they were fabulous!  Let me paint the picture.  We’re in Fort Worth.  It was 8:15 on Monday morning.  It was Columbus Day — a holiday in many workplaces.  Both the Rangers and the Cowboys had played at home the day before – and lost.  And it’s a commuter conference (a large majority of the 2,000+ attendees drive to the conference each day from home).  So to describe the energy in the room as the session opened as lethargic would be understating the case. 

And then The Passing Zone arrived.  Amazing jugglers, smart comedians, these two guys kept the witty patter going through 75 minutes of their act while continuously linking their actions to the HR world.  Trust, cooperation, communication, juggling priorities:  these were cleverly woven into their act in a refreshing, funny and entertaining way.  We were laughing, we were clapping, we were gasping, we were cheering.  The energy was thumping, the good humor was flowing and the conference was off to the races.  Brilliant!

 So I stand corrected.  When planning conference keynoters understand the likely mindset of the audience you are supporting.  And if it’s first thing Monday morning, wake ’em up!  The planners at HR Southwest did just that and came up with a real winner.  Well done!



Filed under HR, HR Conferences, Uncategorized

Fear and Loathing in Orlando

I’ve just returned from the SHRM-affiliated HR Florida state conference. What an experience!  Organized and executed entirely by SHRM chapter volunteers, this conference had over 1,400 attendees in a beautiful and roomy resort in Orlando.  Carol MacDanielLori Goldsmith , Stephen M. Geraghty-Harrison and the entire team did a remarkable job in bringing a content-laden and interactive experience to the attendees.  Truly a terrific experience.

Here’s something that was validated for me in Orlando about HR professionals and social media.  Of the 1,400+ attendees at the conference in Orlando, maybe 200 were engaged actively in social media.  That’s 14%.

Knowing that this would be an issue, the folks at HR Florida did a superb job of providing sessions, support and encouragement for the attendees to start to engage with social media.  A very robust effort.

Trish MacFarlane over at HR Ringleader noticed it too.  And I agree with her identified reason for the lack of engagement:  fear.   I’m not sure what they’re afraid of, but here are some suggestions to those of us who do “get it”:

  • be encouraging
  • be role models
  • be generous with your time
  • teach and mentor
  • be patient

Despite the conventional wisdome that social media is only for the younger generations, a post on The Social Graf blog by Erik Sass gave some interesting data about the adoption of social media by those who aren’t young.  Here’s what it says about survey data collected from Princeton Survey Research Associates on behalf of the Pew Internet & American Life Project:

  • Among Internet users ages 50+ overall, social network use increased from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010. To boot, 10% of the 50+ cohort uses Twitter or a similar “status update” service, either to post updates or check other people’s updates.
  • Looking at specific age cohorts, social network use among Internet users ages 50-64 surged from 25% to 47%, with 20% of this group saying they check into social networks on a daily basis — up from 10% last year.
  • By contrast, social network use among Internet users ages 18-29 appears to be reaching saturation, growing from 76% in April 2009 to 86% in May 2010.

There’s a message here for HR professionals.  It says more of our employees are engaged in social media than aren’t — and not just the folks we assumed were engaged!  We have a real opportunity, perhaps even an obligation, to get out in front of our employees.

Because if they’re using social media at home they’re using social media at work.

But I get it.  It’s scary.  I held my breath when I jumped into social media when I was the Chief Operating Officer of SHRM.  And guess what?  I lived.  More to the point, SHRM lived.  My adoption of social media paved the way for greater engagement of members and non-members alike.  And it also paved the way for SHRM to begin to step up organizationally to the opportunities active social media involvement creates.  Their new public relations campaign, We Know Next, has significant social media outreach strategies embedded in it.

As a profession, we need to be able to lead the social media policy discussions, not abdicate them to the legal department or the marketing department.  As business leaders, we need to understand the implications of the use (and misuse) of social media on our corporate and employer brands.  As HR leaders, we need to be out in front of our employees and understand the impact of social media on employee engagement and our cultures.

This is the work of Human Resources.  It’s new (for most).  It involves technology.  It’s scary.  So let’s step up and support our colleagues in learning these new applications for engaging our employees and building stronger cultures.  Let’s not let fear paralyze our profession from doing its essential work:  providing strategic business leadership that positively impacts employee and customer satisfaction.

After all, isn’t that our job?


Filed under Business Success, China Gorman, Culture, HR, HR Conferences, Leadership, Social Media