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HR Is Alive and Getting Better!

A report from the San Diego SHRM Conference

by Matt DeLuca

I just returned from the SHRM Conference. It was such a terrific gathering that it will take two columns for me to do it justice. This months column will be an overview. Next months will be devoted to a major topicadding value and getting to know the customer. Now for the conference highlights.

First, new buzzwords in HR terminology abounded, some helpful and some just silly. For example, the 9-80 schedule. Houstons oil companies are putting exempt and non-exempt workers alike on a 9-80 schedule where employees work nine days every two weeks for a total of 80 hours. Everyone usually gets the same day off, (I guess calls all go to voice mail on the tenth day). Then there was the 720, a 360-degree performance measurement tool that includes customersbut isnt that what a 360-degree evaluation was already supposed to include?

Second, there didnt seem to be a lot of new products out there, just more of the same. The only exception was new products in healthcare and wellness. Medtronic and others are now offering leases for sophisticated monitoring devices so that employees can check their blood pressure and heart rate at work as frequently as they like. Will the sequence be 401(k) investments first and blood pressure next or the other way around?

Third, tchotchkes a Yiddish word for give aways with no English equivalentare getting more elaborate. Thomson was giving away luggage on wheels (lines were at least an hour long). The Gap offered flipflops (hopefully not encouraging employees to wear them on their business casual days). Human Resource Executive was putting attendees pictures on the cover of their magazine as vendors at carnivals frequently do (You too can be TIMEs person of the year!) And vendor-sponsored parties included star quality entertainment Hootie and the Blowfish (at the San Diego Zoo of all places!) and the Village Peoplealong with open bars, pedi-cab transportation, and, of course, more open bars.

Fourth, outsourcing is being re-examined as an HR service delivery strategy. First Advantage used the conference as an opportunity to kickoff its new superbrand. You may know First Advantage for the variety of HR services they provide on the back end (reference checking, tax consulting, and risk management, to name a few). Then again, you may not know them because First Advantage has taken an aggressive strategy of acquiring a disparate group of organizations in a very segmented marketplace and have been demonstrating the real synergies that come from economies of scale and top quality service delivery by pulling several companies under one huge net. Of particular interest was CEO John Longs response to an outsourcing question at a press briefingthat his organization may provide services, as a third party vendor, to an outsourcing organization under their own brand, but his strategy is for First Advantage to offer its services as a provider/supplier in a more traditional sense.

Fifth, content is still king. The presentations I saw were loaded with useful substance and very thought provoking. Of course, I have a bias for HR practitioners who told their stories, such as Margaret Morford or ex-SHRM CEO Michael Losey. Or Bob Pruitt, who discussed how by bringing humor into the performance appraisal process at Parkview Noble Hospital he vastly improved the results. Then there were the metrics (Fitz-ensupdated, finally!), benchmarking (Kaplan is outinflexible!), and best practices (UCLAs Professor Moshe Rubinstein, a Masters Series presenter, asked why we should limit our line of sight to yesterdays best?). More important, SHRM demonstrated terrific research initiatives that included its second-year sponsoring of the 50 Best Small and Medium Places to Work. More kudos to SHRM for making it so easy to spot both the CEOs and their HR leaders from all the winners, by providing them with large badges so that we could see for ourselves their passion and energy and hear how much they value their employees and HR.

Last, it was good to see that HR is getting a seat at the table. Now we need to be sure we know what we need to do (and how to act) once we get there. More on that next month.

Tags: Engaged Workforce, Learning

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