BenefitsEmployee Engagement

Pros and Con(ference)s

Our CEO examines the recent HRO Europe Conference and the upcoming HRO events and explains what they mean to HRO as an industry and a community.

by Elliot Clark

So I was in Paris with my wife, and the museum workers went on strike. On the last day we were there, the strike ended as they abruptly do, and we herded into the Musée du Louvre with all the other frustrated tourists. In the crush of humanity queuing in the gallery to see the Venus de Milo, I joked to my wife as we got close to the masterpiece, “All this way, and the damn thing’s broken?”

To my surprise, my wife had been separated from me in the crowd, and I was next to a starchy British matron who disapproved of my humor and snapped, “It’s supposed to be broken.” I retorted, “I’m not sure the artist would agree.” While she did not get the joke, I was trying to make a point about people who focus on the negative.

The Venus de Milo is an expression of perfection in ethereal physical beauty, and the fact that it has blemishes does not detract from what it does provide. All things have pros and cons, including HRO conferences—one recent, one imminent.

If you can fault the HRO World Europe conference for anything, it is that the weather in Brussels was, well, the weather in Brussels. It was the best HRO World Europe program yet. The conference employs a seminar-style format and attracted more buyers than providers.

The programming was done in consultation with the HROA and the HRO Enterprise Buyers Group. There was good networking time, although a few attendees voiced the opinion that more structured, peer-to-peer learning opportunities were needed. The only other comment I heard was that the “stand-up” awards ceremony was not as gracious as the awards ceremony in the U.S. Not bad. Two days of conference and few complaints. Congratulations to the team.

The other conference being discussed is the upcoming NY HR Week in April of 2008. HRO Today is a media sponsor of that event and is helping conference organizer LRP, Inc. promote it. To be fair, I have heard criticism about the New York event—some of it earned. The format is a combination expo and seminar.

Historically, it has attracted more tactical than strategic-level attendees. Tactical attendees are rarely HRO decision-makers. In fairness to LRP, the conference was not attracting a significant strategic audience before LRP, and under its ownership it has had a better audience than in prior years.
If we can agree that it is improving but still has a way to go, why not just stay away?

Because outsourcing has enough foes, silent and vocal, and the HRO community shouldn’t turn on each other. Because we are a community, we need these events to be robust in content, well-attended, and successful. The conference economic model requires sponsors, who require a return on investment by attracting the right attendees. I am not saying that sponsors should spend their funds for the “common weal,” but these events are important, and there is a market for attendees if they see value.

The only way for sponsors or attendees to have an input or an impact on the program and continue its forward progress is to be involved and have a voice. Staying away will hasten further deterioration and even help the outsourcing naysayers pronounce the “end of the trend” or some other kitschy comment. While this prediction would be untrue, it helps encourage aspiring buyers by ensuring that the HRO industry is out in force at these events.

I have spoken directly with the senior executives at LRP, and they assure HRO Today that they are anxious to put on the best New York meeting ever and want to take guidance from the sponsors and input from the industry on how to make this event more valuable each year. I believe them. You can always find fault with what “could be better” about a conference (or a great sculpture), but you will never improve anything by depriving yourself of the opportunity to be heard. I believe NY HR Week will be worth the trip. So give the Big Apple a visit. I hope to see you there.

Tags: Benefits, Engaged Workforce, HRO Today Global

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