Monday, November 19, 2012

SHRM Leadership No. 2

This year's version of The SHRM Leadership conference is in the bag. I touched on the facts and figures in the the first post.  So in this post I want to talk about the content, the mood and the interaction between the parent organization and the Councils and Chapters. What follows is my opinion and does not reflect the views or anyone other than me the author. They are observation based upon comments, conversations and other interactions that took place during the conference.

Being  a member of the Board of ILSHMR I attended mostly breakout session for state councils and not for chapters.  Two events to be exact.  In fairness,  the first session was supposed to be hosted by our own Martha Ramirez . Unfortunately Martha took ill and was unable to attend.  We had a couple stand-ins for Martha  but I did not sense their connection to the group of State Council members  At one point I tweeted, anarchy was about to ensue.  if you know me, you know my sarcastic sense of humor and understand I often characterize things to get a laugh or a reaction.  While such was not truly the case, as issues were discussed the conversation sprung up from all over the room.  The SHRM representatives were not prepared and did not have answers for the questions that were being posed.

On the next day, we continued this conversation.  Now is when it gets funky.  I think there were many different agendas for what needed to be discussed.  Not all of the agendas were legit, necessarily.   After about 15 minutes worth of discussion Hank, Jose and Betty dropped in to chat with us.  They did do a little Q and A,  and it appeared that there was a lot more Q than A.

I may be cynical but board members tend to answer question like accountants and politicians.  This means most of the time you don't get a real answer.  You get the things like, "we're working on it,"  "or we understand your concerns."   What we seldom here is what would you like us to do or how can we make this better for you the volunteers. The frustration to these answers was palbable in the room.

On a lighter note, most of the other meetings were pretty typical and professionally done.   The Pinnacle Awards dinner was very nice. All of the winners were most deserving.  The other general sessions were good,  it is not SHRM's fault that I have seen their stable of speaker, do their thing on numerous occasions.  I heard very positive comments about the general session.   Regarding one of the presenters, I have heard speak  Cy Wakeman speak 4 or 5 times in the last two year.  You might think that would elicit some snarky remakrs.  On the contrary Cy is fantastic - always- I am sure I would be enlightened and entertained even if I heard her a dozen times a year.

This year brought  a new venue.   The Gaylord National is just across the river in Maryland .  The property itself was magnificent.  There were 2-3 conferences going on while us SHRMers were there.  So it is an immense facility and very astetically pleasing.   Besides the hotel a whole little community of shops, bars and restaurants has sprung up within walking distance of the hotel, to support all of the people occupying the property.  Harrigan's, an Irish Pub very close by was adopted by the social media crowd.  Steve Browne held court there Friday and Saturday nights.

The food at The Gaylord was ok.  The Friday dinner was the best meal attendees got. I did not hear anyone rave about the food, but neither did I hear anyone rail on it either.  I will say that all of the service staff at the hotel was top shelf. My room was well cared for and all of the service staff was most competent and very pleasant.

One other thing that seemed apparent to me is  that 2012 seemed to be a changing of the guard year.  Some of the regulars like Matt Stollak, John Jorgensen and Mike VanDervort were conspicuous by their absence.  Steve Browne seemed to be one of the volunteer leaders who people were looking to for a voice.  Not only were they looking to Steve for a voice, he was also made to perform.

Friday night after dinner and the Pinnacle Awards the attendees were treated to a performance by The Water Coolers..   At one point they called for some audience participation and whose name should surface other than Steve Browne and Patti Blosse. While I did not get the entire Steve show, I did get about 5 minutes of it on video and have included it in this here.

Part of the ILSHRM delegation with U.S. Rep Aaron Schock
The Capitol Hill visit was a huge sucess by any measure.  While I have not confirmed this, it was said that 380 HR Professionals went to The Hill and presented SHRM's position on Section 127 and Section 125 benefits.  We asked them to continue or make permanent both of these items.  There was a contingent of nearly 20 Illinois SHRM members who visited Senators Durbin and Kirk's offices.  Following that I went with another group of 5 and we visited with our Congressman Aaron Schock - in person.

The tour of the SHRM building was very nice as it always is.  When you go there you do sense the pride that all of the SHRM staff has. They truly do want to welcome us their volunteer leaders.   The food and drink there was superb.

And this year's visit to Headquarters was a little more special for me.  My oldest son Danny happened to hook up with his Dad in the DC Area.  The SHRM folks were gracious enough to let him join us for The Hill Breakfast, and motorcoach rides to and from The Hill.  At Headquarters he got to see first hand all of the SHRM stuff the old man has been involved with for such a long time.  He was most impressed, as he too works in an association based type business.

Danny also got to meet many of his dad's HR friends from Illinois and other areas, like Ohio - Steve Browne's name surfaces again.  It was an interesting experience for Danny.  I have asked him to share his thoughts on the two days in a guest post. This should be along later in the week.

Lastly, I wanted to comment on meeting up with and making new friends in the biz.  I think the truth is this, that is what I most enjoy about attending conferences and events is meeting people face to face for the first time.  These are the folks who I first come in contact with via social media.  Then you get to meet them face to face. It is truly a joy, and for me an nearly indescribable pleasure,

None of comments were intended to be negative or reflect poorly on the SHRM organization as a whole.  I am a died in the wool suporter.  We can always do better.   These are my opinions and lord knows I am not always right; just ask one of my kids - they will tell you.

-Dave Ryan Director of Social Media ISC SHRM