Even in lean times, industry conferences are worthwhile.
by Elliot Clark
Many people have asked in the past year why I am the program chair of the 2009 HRO World Conference on May 5 and 6 in New York City. After all, this conference is not a SharedXpertise Forum*. We receive no financial benefit from the conference. In fact, the parent company publishes a competing magazine. The reason I am chairing the program is because I believe that conferences are good for the industry.
To be fair, “nattering nabobs of negativity” have been criticizing this event since its inception. I would rather address the future here than the past. This year we have focused on a buyer-driven program. Because HRO World is now embedded in a larger conference, the keynote content is pertinent to HR in general. Keynote speaker Steven Greenhouse will talk about the state of the American worker.
We have case studies from complex organizations such as the U.S. Postal Service, Textron, Hertz, and Bank of America. We have a session on the challenges of HRO in Asia. Qualcomm will present a hybrid approach managing shared-service centers staffed by a provider. We will learn how technology is driving the RPO delivery platform. There will be special, invitation-only buyer sessions and thought-leader pavilions where attendees seeking one-on-one advice can spend time with an expert.
Why are these kinds of meetings good for industry? How can you justify the travel in these turbulent economic times? These are important questions with important answers. We need to recognize the state of HRO as an industry. Some parts of HRO—the multi-process, enterprise HRO segment, in particular—are facing real challenges. The first wave of savings from moving call center support to low-cost economies and from lower transactional processing has run its course. To achieve the next wave of growth and adoption, the quality issues of the past need to be addressed, and a new wave of innovation must commence.
Where does innovation begin? It grows from collaborative thinking. It arises from discussing shared experiences and trial-and-error with new approaches. The real benefit of these programs is the opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes to experience epiphanies about what you may be doing right, doing wrong, and can do better. When the proverbial apple fell on Isaac Newton, it did not change the world. He shared his new insight into the world in Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica and discussed his analysis at the Royal Society, an association of leading scientists.
Many companies are experimenting with better mousetraps in HRO, and if we do not learn from other speakers as well as other attendees, this thoughtful approach to the future cannot occur. In short, all your answers are not within the four walls of your company or available from articles searched on Google or even within the pages of HRO Today (however, we are trying!).
We need to attend these conferences and HRO World has a great program. There are other concurrent HRO-related events. Meetings of the HROA Board of Trustees and the annual HRO Award Gala are also scheduled. HROA members get a discount and their attendance helps support the association as the HROA is a sponsor of the conference. The real opportunity for you is learning, networking and mentorship, and the real opportunity for the industry is growth and innovation. That is why these meetings are relevant, perhaps more so, in times like these.
*Publishers Disclosure: SharedXpertise Forums is a division of Crossing Media, LLC