Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Pilgrimage to SHRMLead

While I did not see any turkey’s on this Pilgrimage it was one that I will remember for a lifetime.  If you were from any other state than Illinois at the annual SHRM Leadership Conference in National Harbor, MD last week you would have seen the sea of red shirts and thought it was a “wow-look at the masses that made the trip (Pilgrimage) from half way across the country too. Again this year (3rd in a row) all attendees from the ILSHRM board and chapter board members were offered a red shirt to wear for two reason: 1) Take a group photo and 2) show our team/state spirit.  The latter was the more important of the two because no one felt alone.  They had others to turn to and felt included which is extremely important to me as a leader in this state.  In the “Strengths Finder” assessment one of my top five is “INCLUDER” and if this is the only legacy I leave for my time in a leadership role, I am ecstatic, because when I was a chapter leader, I had no idea what the State Council was let alone the massive amount of energy you feel at an event like #SHRMLead.
The ILSHRM Red Shirt brigade.
The red shirts, however, was not the thing that impressed me at all.  I was impressed by almost 40 individuals who gave up part of their week at work and with family to attend this event.  We had a little over 30 people who attended our now traditional Thursday night networking dinner.  
ILSHRM Networking Dinner

Here we introduce ourselves because often we communicate across the state via email but never have a chance to meet people in person (F2F or IRL).  Have a to a name means all the difference and for some who commit to multi-year roles they will see each other again at this conference and hopefully the ILSHRM leadership conference in January.  Having attended this conference now for twelve years as a chapter then state council I have had the opportunity to bond and long term relationships with people all over state as well as the country and with SHRM staff.
The ILSHRM gang ready to hit The Hill

While this pilgrimage was impressive, the most moving for me was the amount of representation Illinois had on Capitol Hill this year.  When I first started attending the SHRM A Team hill visits about five years ago, first at SHRM Leadership and at the annual SHRM Legislative Conference, we consistently had no more than a handful of visitors.  However, in the past few years the number of representatives has increased to the point that it put tears in my eyes as I looked around the room. 
This is the time for Thanksgiving and while I am definitely looking forward to passing the gavel, I cannot tell you how deeply thankful and humble I am to have had the opportunity to serve such a dedicated group of individuals who put their profession at the forefront and HaveAVoice for all those in our state.  It has been a fantastic honor and I know the future is in good hands with Cathy Plouzek and Connie Wolgemuth at the helm.
Donna, Cathy and Connie (L to R)

Happy Holidays to all and if you’re an HR pro in this great state, please join me in thanking those who attended this conference and the hill visit to make a difference for each of us on the job back home!  ILSHRM & SHRM Chapter Volunteers ROCK!

Donna Rogers Chair - ISC SHRM

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On Vacation at SHRM Leadership

Our guest blogger is Danny Ryan. Danny is on a mission to more effectively educate and empower principled leaders. As such, he is currently employed for the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity (PIKE) as the Director of Online Education and Innovation. He graduated from the Missouri University of Science & Technology in Rolla, Missouri with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He is an avid runner, golfer, and ice hockey player. He currently resides in Memphis, Tennessee with his long-time girlfriend Shahd and their long-haired, miniature dachshund, Zeppelin. You can find him on LinkedIn or Twitter .

Not many folks would take a vacation to a Human Resources conference, yet I was a “tourist,” in every sense of the word, for the Wednesday and Thursday of the 2012 SHRM Leadership Conference. Since I work for a membership-based organization that is similar to SHRM, it was much like a visit to another country.  Luckily I had a “local,” my father, Dave Ryan, who could help show me the sights and sounds during my journey. These are a few of my observations (relative to my own experiences with membership-based organizations) while diving into the unknown world of HR professionals.

Danny in front of the Gaylord National - the Conference Hotel.
The venues used to entertain the SHRMites were unbelievable! The hotel that hosted the event was extravagant beyond belief. I have been to numerous conferences before but the size and scope of the Gaylord National took conference hosting to another level. I could not tell at first whether the conference attendees demanded a place with such extravagance or if it was simply a way for SHRM headquarters (the equivalent of “Fraternity Nationals” in the world that I work) to reward volunteer leaders, because this was the conference for those in leadership positions, but as I met more attendees I started to believe the latter more than the former.

Moving on, the SHRM headquarters was a site to see in its own right. The headquarters was a substantial five story office building that looked very new and housed numerous employees, which I did not quite expect from my experience in non-profit membership organizations. It was great getting to explore the headquarters because it allowed attendees to not only view the grounds, but, thanks to some added flare, advertising the upcoming SHRM national conference in Chicago, it also put some personality to the SHRM staff, which is rare in my experience.

In addition to visiting SHRM headquarters, I was also able to attend a few other sessions on the action-packed conference agenda. A highlight of the agenda was visits to Capitol Hill for groups to meet with their state representatives and senators. Despite me skipping this occurrence to be a tourist in our nation’s capital, the visits seemed well-organized and heavily attended. I was not unfamiliar with these visits since my industry organizes similar trips, but it did make me question the effectiveness of these visits since the politicians are more than likely bombarded with different visits weekly, if not daily. I suppose that it cannot hurt to continually fight for their attention though.

The opening session was very typical of conference openings with the excitement and array of introductions, but it also offered an opportunity for conference attendees to network. Granted the grouping of people by regions limited the initial networking and the rock-paper-scissors exercise later did not really produce actionable networking conversations, the fact that networking was incorporated into the first session was something that I had never seen. While I am on the topic of networking, I want to discuss the best part of the conference – the attendees. All of the “locals” were more than welcoming to me as an outsider. They brought me in as one of their own and allowed me to participate in everything. It was great getting the opportunity to meet so many people who are driven to excel in their profession. I noticed that the more successful/driven people were in their field, the more likely they were to have the most during the conference. I am unsure what each of the individuals is like in a normal day but it seemed like most of the people were so excited to be at the conference to be around others who have the same passion and drive (aka they drink the kool-aid) for their profession that they simply wanted to celebrate – and that they certainly did. I like to call this a “work hard, play hard” mentality that I believe is consistent within most volunteer organizations.

This was interesting but not surprising to me; at least not as surprising to me as the lack of my fellow young professionals (yuppies). It may be because this was the SHRM Leadership conference, or because most attendees of these types of conferences are established in their career, or perhaps because everyone my age is still struggling to find their profession but there was an apparent lack of young professionals at the conference. I am not sure how to fix this but it was certainly something that caught my attention, and I am sure the staff at SHRM headquarters is working to address that issue.

In addition to that surprise, I was also surprised about the language barrier. The attendees spoke the same language as me, yet they seemed to communicate in a very different manner. Many of the attendees seemed to be glued to their phones. They had much to say but it was as though the “natives” could only communicate via Twitter. And if that weren’t enough to confuse me since I am not a heavy Twitter user, I felt like a tourist frantically flipping through his pocket dictionary trying to translate the HR language as I experienced tchat (should that be hashtagged?). Needless to say, I hope I am able to correct my language inefficiency prior to my next HR conference.

Overall, the SHRM Leadership Conference was a tremendous experience. It went by too fast and I wish I could have experienced more, but I am so glad I had the opportunity to experience it, and, more importantly, meet, what my mother calls, my father’s “imaginary friends” he frequently talks about. I am unsure if and when I will attend another SHRM conference but I will certainly not forget the relationships I made. I will not list everyone I met but I cannot thank you all enough for making my journey into the HR world unforgettable.