If I Were Running A Company…My #SHRM12

(Photo Credit: Dice)

The SHRM12 conference had a different feel than the previous three SHRM conferences. For starters, I was a veteran at the conference, although I have not been to the SHRM Conference in four years (last one in Chicago of 2008), one year before the “social media movement” came in New Orleans in 2009. The other thing that had a different feel was I am a blogger for this conference, so I had more responsibilities to not only go to sessions and expos, I had to discuss it on Twitter and this blog to let you know my perspective on this conference. Finally, I had an inner circle of HR that I started to build right after the 2008 conference from reading HR blogs talking about that conference. Four years later, these HR bloggers/press members I respect, will meet for the first time.

The Hive/Bloggers’ Lounge

This year, SHRM made a huge initiative of getting a section of the conference focusing on social media. SHRM created three new things for this conference:

The Buzz: where bloggers discuss the going-ons at the conference to first-timers or unfamiliar with Atlanta. The name is appropriate to build around the conference

The Bloggers Lounge: This is where all the bloggers get to go network, blog, tweet, and discuss what was going on at the conference. This is also the place I met the HR bloggers for the first time. It was a magical place.

The Hive: This was the place where if attendees have questions on social media, this was the place. There was the SmartBar where HR bloggers and SHRM staff answer questions on social media, There were sessions on social media, popular shows from Fistful of Talent and Drive Thru HR broadcast from there, and tables for networking.

These three sections complement each other and was one of the best ideas they had at the conference. All credit goes to Curtis Midkiff and Dice (the main sponsor) for setting this up and creating a social atmosphere that made this conference successful. If you don’t believe me, people outside of HR wanted to use the Hive model for their own conferences to help their people adapt to social media. If you still don’t believe me, check these stats out, plus the #SHRM12 twitter stream is hit with porn right now. Truly, a home run by SHRM and Dice.

Keynote Speakers

There’s always a theme why SHRM brings these keynote speakers. This year, it was Condoleezza Rice, Malcolm Gladwell, Jim Collins, and Tom Brokaw. In my opinion, the theme of the keynotes was “we need each other.”

  • For Rice: it was dealing with a position that is dominated by white males and had to look up to them.
  • For Gladwell: the older generation believing hierarchy, while the younger generation believes in networks and decentralization. However, both need to understand each other. That’s why the Civil Rights movement was successful because it had a network, plus a leader in Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • For Collins: it is about people and how we use them right. Also, when it’s the right time to grow or not.
  • For Brokaw: it’s the “big idea” and a partnership between private and public sectors

Eventually, all four speakers are saying we have to work together to make this work, no matter the differences and we have to grow together from trials and tribulations, but at the end when everything is in place, it will work. I might be thinking too much about a pattern here, but SHRM gives us an underlying theme  we need to take out of from those keynotes and it worked.

Concurrent Sessions 

Of the sessions I attended, it was night and day. The Monday sessions included speakers Sue Meisinger, Nancy Newell, and Angela Hills. That was a terrific lineup speakers I chose and they all delivered and it was hard to match that the next day…and I was right. The next day, they’re were two speakers I had to walk out because their topic were off the board and landed differently than I expected. The only great session I went that day was Jeremy Eskenazi’s presentation on recruiting turned to consulting. On Wednesday, I only went to one session on “Is Social Recruiting Really Working?” It was a friendly debate on how companies are using social media in recruiting and it was a great session to close out the conference to make people think before the go on their flights.

If I had to choose one session that was best, it was Angela Hills’s presentation on “Creative Destruction” because the topic has not been covered enough in the business world except in the social entrepreneurial (or entrepreneurial) arena. Creative destruction has been a term for a long-time, but it is getting a lot of play within the last year because of what’s going on with the economy. This might be the new buzz words people going to use in the next couple of years.

Overall, the sessions did have a lot of focus on talent acquisition and talent development and I think SHRM’s underlying theme is continuing in tact.

Exhibit Hall

I remember the last conference I attended in Chicago, exhibit hall was huge as vendors had bigger booths and bigger budgets to play with TV screens and other electronic stuff. in Atlanta, it seemed scaled back. it was probably it was the economy or that Atlanta is not a popular destination like Las Vegas last year, but there were 18,000 who came at the conference. My thoughts on what I saw at the Expo:

  • Lots of vending stores for your offices. Steve Boese had a great write-up about one of the vendors, Avanti Markets. To be honest, the stores are similar to stores you see at your office building or 7-11. I just hope someone included lottery tickets.
  • Astron Solutions, an HR Technology Service company, was showing Euro 2012 on Sunday. A great way to attract people and discover your product.
  • Best schwag: the Dave Thomas Foundation and their kickballs.
  • Yes, Exhibit Hall is huge and it is hard to find people you’re looking for. In my case, I went to one of the vendors and they ask me where I’m from and their partner came from the same high school (Fairfax High School in Virginia) and had a good 15 minute talk. I know some hate vendors as salespeople, but when you come to exhibit hall, you don’t know what to expect and we have to realize the vendors behind the product are people as well.
  • Mobile products are on the rise with mobile ATS, mobile benefits, and mobile rewards & recognition.
  • The giveaway of the conference: either an iPad or Kindle. Frankly, it was a little too much and causing me to not have distinction between vendors. I know technology will change and there will be something else in the woodwork, but if iPads and Kindles are still popular next year, I would just have a big drawing every 15-30 minutes for either of these items and have it listed on the big board. There’s no damn way people who entered for a lot of drawings have to be in one place since some booths require you to show up. I was disappointed no one gave out the Microsoft Surface (not the just released tablet, the technology coffee table), but it does cost $13,000, so…

Parties and Fun

The most fun I had was the SHRM Hockey event at Centennial Plaza where all the bloggers play a little street hockey for the Atlanta Mission. I hope this is annual tradition.

As for the parties, I’m not a party go-er, but if you have to go back-to-back days at the same place, it loses its luster. On Sunday, Bright.com and TLNT held their party at Stats. On Monday, Glassdoor and SHRM held their party at the Der Biergarten. By the way, both Stats and Der Biergarten share the same rooftop, hence the redundancy of the party, although the SHRM party was much more crazier than I ever anticipated.


SHRM has made lots of strides and has become mainstream thanks to the Hive and Twitter buzz (no pun intended). What has not change is SHRM believing an HR person is still an HR person in any sector and can be transferable.  I don’t have that viewpoint as  HR is the same in each sector. We have different sectors with different mindsets. Some say SHRM has become big and bureaucratic and don’t give a damn about HR, only making money. It isn’t SHRM doesn’t care, because I think they do, but they have become mainstream and when there’s power, there’s responsibility. SHRM has done a great job building up the HR profession, but it is now time to divide and conquer. SHRM really needs to bring all sectors in the fold from non-profits, gaming, small businesses, media, government contracting, and others to make this a complete experience. What I see in presentations is just a focus on the big brands. Let’s be honest: some of these presentations are more inspiring than a learning experience because these are big brands, but not everyone will work at a big company. I hope SHRM expands to other areas, although to be fair, SHRM did have a Manufacturing Summit , so baby steps are taken. However, more sectors involve in this conference, the better. I do not want HR just be experts at our own profession because we’re already good at what we do (well, some of us are). I want us to be industry experts that we know what were talking about and become future executives at our organization.

The other improvement is more of a proactive approach. The Hive was a great addition to the SHRM conference as people ask questions on how to use social media and how to adopt that in their workplace. Now in the future, the question isn’t if your organization uses social media, or is your business social. It will be what’s next? For future SHRM Conferences, I would use the Hive as a hub for what’s trending. This year was social, next year could be social as well, but what about the following years? Mobile is coming to our lives, don’t forget holograms, transporters, or Google glasses. The Hive, to me, has to be the place for trendsetting topics to be discuss and how to use them. The Hive is a great idea; let us continue that and use it to push HR into a better profession.

For SHRM13 in Chicago

From the news yesterday, I can tell you the main session people will be attending is healthcare and how it impacts them and their company. I can imagine the HR programs department looking through numerous proposals of healthcare sessions. I wish them luck.

Finally, starting next year, MLB will enforce all 30 teams to face one another and since the SHRM13 Conference is from June 16-19, I want MLB to have the Cubs or White Sox face my beloved Washington Nationals before the conference or if SHRM selects a crappy entertainer, I wanted it Monday or Tuesday Night. If possible, make the Nationals-Cubs on Saturday a doubleheader. This will make my conference experience the best. Also, if the Bulls or Blackhawks make it to the Finals, I want a piece of that action.

Overall Impressions

I wouldn’t say this conference was the best because it’s still in the early stages and see how it will develop in the next year, but this conference had a lot of meaning since I took part of it as a blogger and it was definitely the most fun I had. Most of the sessions were top notch, and networking is en vogue again the last time I went to a SHRM Conference. To reiterate again, I want to thank Curtis, SHRM, and the Dice team for this experience like no other and bring together all the HR bloggers and seeing them for the first time. On a personal note, I want to thank Jenny Hughes for giving me an opportunity to be part of the blogging crew this year (this is why commuting 4 hours to and from National Harbor is worth it) and hope to return next year.

That is my final SHRM12 post…now go back to work…oh wait, next week is 4th of July. Go back to your vacation…and then work. Oh let me end on this: SHRM gave us to “Be [something].” There are two phrases I tell everyone: “Be Your Job” and I’ll let the Special One finish this (go to 4:35 Mark):

Other References:

My pics from SHRM12
SHRM12 Preview
SHRM12 Pre-Conference
SHRM12 Day 1
SHRM12 Day 2
SHRM12 Day 3
SHRM12 Last Day
Attendees Reaction to SHRM12
SHRM12 Presentation Slides

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