June 27, 2011

SHRM 11: Session Coverage Minus the Mini-Celebrity Cult Following

There is a lot of SHRM 2011 blog content to be found on the internet, this week and for weeks to come. Some will be great, some not so much. A lot will cover conference activities/events/impressions. Most will cover the popular sessions. What I plan to do is visit and blog about those sessions that don’t have a mini-celebrity cult following but are no less relevant.

Like the session I sat in this morning on Diversity and Inclusion. The session was presented by Jeanetta Darno, AVP Diversity and Inclusion with Nationwide Insurance (@Nationwide). Jeanetta spoke about Nationwide’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, what they’ve learned along the way, what they’ve added/modified/deleted and how they have tied their initiatives back to the overall organizational strategy, which for those of you that know me, know that I am all about typing departmental strategy back to organizational strategy. So that was a huge win for me.

Jeanetta gave us some insight into what diversity and inclusion mean for Nationwide. We are all familiar with the Nationwide jingle…”Nationwide is on your side!”, but back in the ‘70s their slogan was vastly different…The Man is on Your Side. Can you see and understand the need for Nationwide to have a focus on diversity and inclusion? Now, while Jeanetta did not initially integrate D&I into Nationwide, she has been pivotal on piloting its success. Here are some key points that she left for attendees:

Make the Diversity and Inclusion strategy transparent. HR needs to talk about what initiatives we are implementing and make sure the leaders and employees understand them. I mean, that just makes sense right? We can’t continue to create program and initiatives in a vacuum. HR has to ensure that we are bringing meaningful initiatives to the organization. How can we do that if we haven’t had upfront conversations about what is truly important?

Diversity and Inclusion should measure inside and outside impact. When implanting a D&I initiative companies need to conduct a SWOT analysis to determine what is happening on the external landscape as well as what is happening internal. Companies should conduct benchmarking and focus groups to gauge what is happening in the market, what other companies are doing and their successes and failures. Then, companies need to look internally to see where opportunities exist within the organization and what initiatives need to be implemented. Nationwide did this through an employee engagement study. They collected and analyzed the results and from this came their Areas of Focus – those key areas that were most important to their employees. It’s not enough to have a D&I strategy. The strategy must be important to those that matter…the leaders and employees. Therefore, it should be customized to the organization.

Link Diversity and Inclusion strategies to HR programs and policies and integrate Diversity and Inclusion initiatives into organizational strategies. D&I initiatives, once developed, need to weave through all organizational initiatives from recruiting and retention to training and strategic planning. Once the D&I initiatives have been determined, they should then be integrated into organizational strategy. In actuality, the integration should really take place prior to the linkage as linking to departmental initiatives may prove to be difficult if the organizational does not see the value and hasn’t integrated the initiative into their strategy. But, that’s why those up front conversations are so important, right? If you are having those discussions with your organizational leaders up front and being completely transparent, then the integration should have happened from the start.

Jeanetta provided a lot of insight into what we already know and should be doing. It was interesting hearing a case study on how one company tackled the diversity purple elephant and won.

Stay tuned for more lesser known session coverage!

SHRM National: Cirque de Soleil and the Important of Failure

The SHRM National Conference opened with a bang. Even though I was standing in line waiting to register when the conference officially opened, the Twitter stream kept me in the loop. I heard something about a Cirque De Soleil opening act and Lady Gaga but I could have just been in mind melt-down from the ridiculousness that was the registration line. I was a bit peeved that I did not receive my registration packet in the main, even though I registered for the conference more than 6 weeks in advance, but I tried not to let that get me down. The line moved relatively quickly and, even though there had to realistically be over 150 people in line by the time I got there, I was done in under an hour. All other things considered, this conference seems to be pretty well planned. There are lots of signs thought-out the convention center, the volunteers are easy to spot in their bright orange shirts and they are very friendly and helpful. Each room had a large sign outside displaying the available sessions and times, and SHRM even had an iPhone/Android App to keep up with all of the various sessions, the Twitter stream, speaker BIOs, etc. So, kudos to SHRM for trying to make this a well-organized event.

In terms on the conference itself, the opening general session with Sir Richard Branson was good, although I enjoyed hearing from SHRM CEO Hank Jackson even more. CEO Jackson is very inspiring and motivating. Hearing him speak about the future of HR and the future of SHRM was enlightening. Hank Jackson was announced as the CEO of SHRM during the opening session, which I’m sure had to be a powerful experience for Mr. Jackson. He spoke about how, even in times of recession, SHRM membership increased and is now stronger than ever, further reiterating what we all know…the importance of SHRM and the HR profession. The only annoying part of his session was some of the PowerPoint slides, which were totally unnecessary and actually detracted from his presentation at some points. SHRM did a great job though of making sure that all 14,000+ attendees were able to hear and see the presentation. With over 8 large screens though-out the session space and broadcasts in the social media and press lounge, you didn’t have to worry about finding a good seat.

Sir Richard Branson’s interview session was a bit of a let-down. I was extremely interested in hearing from him. As a matter of fact, he was one of the main reasons I really wanted to come to this year’s conference. But, instead of letting Richard Branson speak, they formatted it into a Q&A session. Because of this, I don’t think the general public truly got to hear the brilliance, dynamism, and charisma that is Sir Richard. We were able to pick up various tidbits of insightfulness though. Branson spoke about how leaders need to allow their people to fail, to give them room to make mistakes, because through this, you learn and grow and excel. He spoke about how he surrounds himself with brilliant people, even if they themselves do not see the brilliance within. For example, the former Janitor and Switchboard Operator at his company are now leaders within the organization. Once again proving that title and rank do not define us and we all have the opportunity to make a difference, a real impact within an organization. One other nugget of knowledge that he left us with (or at least me, as it resonated) is that he has no more than 100 people in any one of his locations. He does this to enforce an environment of collaboration and recognition. Everybody knows everybody, their strengths and their weaknesses and this, he said, makes for not only a better working environment, but also a much more success focused organization. So, again, while I would have rather heard him just go out it, mic in hand, if you listened closely, you would have been enlightened by the wonderment that is Sir Richard Branson.

Day 1 of SHRM National: Exhausting, Overwhelming, and Enjoying the Moments

Day 1 is down and out in Vegas. I had a friend send me a text this morning asking me how’s Vegas. I responded in one word…exhausting. It has been non-stop since I got off the plane on Saturday. Between the networking events, after hour events, SHRM Expo hall, and then the general opening sessions on Sunday, I am tired! I need a week off just to catch up on my sleep! The time zone change doesn’t help either but that’s a whole other story. So, what did I learn in my first day?

My thoughts coming into this event were correct. You have to be spontaneous…live a little on the edge. The conference can be overwhelming as there are a lot of things going on – all at the same time. That makes it difficult to determine where to go and when. But, if you go into this experience with an open mind, you won’t be disappointed.

I would highly recommend finding a conference buddy. A conference buddy is somebody that you can experience the conference with so you’re not wondering around the Expo Hall alone, or being the embarrassing diner of one. I found a conference buddy on Foursquare and then we connected through Twitter and then made the connection that matters most…the in real life connection. Even though I know a lot of people at this conference, I did not come with a co-worker/friend/other, so it was nice to have somebody to attend various events with and even browse the Expo Hall with. During the process of the day, I connected with a few other new friends and went out to dinner. This is what the conference is all about…making, hopefully, life-long connections. Because, as much as I love Social Media, it does not compare to those real-life connections that we need to be making in life.

Speaking of connections, my conference buddy made a connection of his own. He got to meet Carla Hall of Top Chef. After taking a picture with her, they got to talking. Well, she seemed to love his velvety voice as she asked him to announce her at the conference. Now, I don’t know what she is doing here and why she needs to be announced as I don’t watch Top Chef and don’t see the connection, but still, that is kind of cool! These are the experiences that the conference is all about.

The Expo Hall itself is busy! You will not get to every vendor (not that you would want to) in one day. Focus on those that you absolutely must see. For me, I had to stop by and see those people that I know (vendors that I do business with currently, vendors that I want to do business with, and friends that I have made along the way). Everything else you can take or leave. There are some really cool exhibits. Monster (@MonsterWW) has an amazing rock-star like set-up, complete with game show and host. You definitely don’t want to miss that one. Manpower (@PoweringTheWow and @Manpower_US) also had an interesting exhibit complete with caped crusaders, who proceeded to snatch unsuspecting Expo goers, throw a cape on them and force them to take silly pictures. Their booth reminded me that it’s okay to let go and just have fun!

In terms of the after-hour networking events, you will not…let me repeat…will not have time or energy to get to them all. I would highly recommend signing up for them all as you need a ticket to get into most, but there is no way that you will find the time to make it to every single one of them. Even in a town like Vegas where everything is in a pretty well-defined area, it is impossible. Again, living in spontaneity, let the evening take you where it may. You may find out about an under the radar event, or based on the group you are with at that particular moment, you may decide to veer completely off-course. That is okay. I know that is hard for some of us that live and die by their calendars (Me! Me!), but trust me, that is where the fun is, especially in a city like Vegas. I am interested, though, to see how SHRM will top this next year in Atlanta. The convention center there is near Lennox Square, and while there are a lot of great shops and restaurants, there is not much of a night-life, but I am reserving judgment.

I will leave you with this…plan but be open to modification, take your vitamins, drink energy drinks, whatever you need to stay awake, as there is little sleep to be had. Enjoy the after hour events in moderation as there is no fun in waking up with a hangover and having to be clear-headed to attend a session in the a.m. And, above all else, enjoy the moments.

June 25, 2011

My First Impression of Vegas

Ok, so here I am, all checked into the hotel, changed and ready to get my grub on. I just wanted to drop a quick post to tell you about my first impressions of Vegas.

So, I get to the hotel and am immediately assaulted by slot machines. Now, I am not a gambler, so no big deal, right? But, for those that have issues with gambling...this could pose a problem. I mean, it seems that you just can't get away from the gambling here. But, on the other hand, I guess if you had a gambling problem, you probably shouldn't be in Vegas in the first place, right?

As I am walking to baggage claim, I notice a few things that are so un-Florida-like. Not surprising, being that I am over 1400 miles away from Tampa, but nonetheless, I was still a bit surprised. First of all, McCarran International Airport is huge! It just seems to go forever in all directions. Not only is there a liquor kiosk in the airport but they also sell bongs! Yup...you read right. Bongs...right in the middle of the airport. These weren't hidden in the back corner of some airport shop either. They were right, smack dab in the middle of the walkway, in a huge, brightly lit kiosk. I was on the phone at the time and the person I was speaking with (after laughing at my loud outburst of incredulity) simply stated that they were for tobacco purposes. Um...yeah...ok, if you say so.

But, aside from the gambling, liquor, and drug...ahem...tobacco paraphernalia, McCarran International is pretty nice. The people were very helpful. I wasn't sure how to get to the airport and the lady at information called the hotel for me to see if they had a shuttle. When she learned they did not, she directed me to the shuttle stop and offered to have somebody assist me with my bags...awwww!

So, as soon as I stepped outside...woost...my breath was taken away! I mean, I know heat...I live in Florida for jimminy's sake, but oh my, I have never felt heat like this. This is that dry, take your breath away, there is not enough water in the world to quench this thirst, type of heat. I was so relieved when I saw that the shuttle was there waiting for me until I learned that either a) there was no air, or b) it wasn't blowing in my direction. Oh well, I thought, how long can this ride really be? Well, I learned that I was next to last on the stopping order, so 30 minutes later and I literally feel like I am going to die! On top of that, the shuttle driver was just mean and nasty! Passengers were asking her questions and she was just downright rude! Almost to the point of yelling at them. At one point, I thought she was actually going to tell somebody to shut up. I was so thankful when my ride finally came to an end.

The bright side of the rainbow in all of this is my hotel. I have always loved Hilton hotels and, so far, this one does not disappoint. The room is nice and spacious. It is just me, so there is more than enough room. I have a mini-kitchenette with micro, toaster, full-size coffee make (booya!) and mini-fridge. The room is clean and pleasantly appointed and all of the staff were extremely friendly.

So now, here I sit, tired, hungry, giddy, and bored. Yup, I said it...bored. So far, I have not been able to connect with anybody so I have nobody to go out and explore Vegas with, let alone anybody to go grab a bit to eat with. If there is one thing that I will do next time (and recommend), it is to bring somebody with me. That way, I have somebody to explore Vegas with. Thought about crashing a few dinners, but then thought better of it...lol. Maybe I'll go hit the strip. I am sure I will run into somebody or something interesting there.

Off to explore!

On My Way to SHRM '11. First "Pre" Conference Post!

So, I am up in the air, on my way to my first ever SHRM National Conference. I am giddy with excitement about meeting with so many of my tweeps in real life, about the experience in general, about the new connections that I plan to make, the sessions I plan to attend, and just talking and hearing about HR in general. As somebody who has never need to a SHRM National Conference, I can't give you first-hand advice on what to expect, see, do, or not do while you are there, but here I can give you some pointers on how I am approaching my first time in Vegas and my first time at SHRM National.

1) Open Your Mind - Don't go to the conference with any pre-conceived notions or expectations. I am sure you have probably read more than enough about other's experiences and recommendations but I advise going with an open mind and letting the experience envelope you. Be a little spontaneous and allow the moments to guide you. While you are there to learn, you are also there to experience the atmosphere. Don't be so serious about getting to all of those sessions. Go where the spirit takes you. You never know what you may discover.

2) Don't Session Out - Speaking of sessions, I would imagine that it is very easy to get overwhelmed by the shear number of offerings at SHRM National . With more than 200 sessions to choose from, it is easy to become slave to the sessions. Pick the top 3 - 5 that you simply can't miss and then be a bit more spontaneous with the other session offerings. There is no way that you can get to everything and if you miss a session, it's not the end of the world. If you were smart, you did like I did and bought the add-on package that allows you access to the sessions via webinars for 90 days after the conference. The conference isn't just about the sessions, it is about the experience and the connections you will make. Make good use of your time.

3) Connect - Speaking of connections. There is no better place, that I can imagine, to make connections that at SHRM National. Here you are, with thousands of other HR professionals from all over the world, in one space. Leverage that! Take the time to meet people, to make REAL connections. I think today we are so caught up in the world of Social Media (me alike) that we lose sight of the real life connections that are still oh so important. Take this opportunity to remember what it was like to actually meet people and have real conversations. You never know what opportunities may open up for you or what discoveries you will make. Just remember to make those connections real.

4) Have Fun - This is probably my biggest piece of advice. I mean, we are in the City of Sin after all, right? Take time to explore Vegas. Go to some meet-ups. Get to know the personal side of people. That is how we make real connections. We find common ground, talk about what is important and meaningful to us. Through that, we find others that have the same interests/experience/background. And hopefully, through that, you make those real connections we talked about. HR peeps tend to be so uptight and serious (in our jobs) that we often need a reminder that it is ok for us to let loose and just have fun. It's ok. Enjoy yourself. Come on...this is Vegas, remember?!

I'm looking forward to what I will learn, who I will meet, and the experience as a whole. If I don't get to every sessions, that's ok...it's not the end of the world. What is more important for me on this trip is being able to make some more meaningful connections and just soaking it all in.

Here's to living in the moment!

June 21, 2011

Vology Data Systems is seeking the master of all things Social Media!

If you are a Social Media guru, excel in the quick pace of today’s communication, and are looking for a lively work atmosphere, then read on because this may be the opportunity you’ve imagined for yourself! Create the plan, execute the plan and bask in the glory that this newly created position has the potential to deliver!

The Social Media Manager will serve as the social host for Vology – the first impression that most people will encounter and is responsible for creating and implementing Vology’s Social Media strategy, assisting with developing brand awareness, generating inbound traffic and encouraging product adoption. This role coordinates with the internal Marketing and Human Resources teams to support their respective missions, ensuring consistency in voice and cultivating a social media referral network. The Social Media Manager will also develop business cases, marketing plans and proposals for implementing social media solutions. This person will be a strong collaborator and team player that can function in a high pressure, sales-centric environment. Our Social Media Manager will be able to construct an online following that will drive new user acquisition through organic word of mouth advertising. Creating this following won’t be easy, and will depend on the incumbent’s ability to create opportunities for intriguing conversations and subsequent relationships.

The ideal person must be energetic, creative, an excellent writer and internet-savvy; immersed in what it means to "live life online". The incumbent must demonstrate “social media DNA” and have extensive social media experience. Those with daily use of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, and various other social networks are preferred. By combining social media expertise with strong editorial and marketing skills and an entrepreneurial spirit, the Social Media Manager will bring an infectious enthusiasm for Vology’s unique model and long-term vision to support the continued growth and success of Vology.

This position will report directly into Marketing but will also support key HR recruitment initiatives.

Essential Duties/Responsibilities:
• Develop and execute a clearly defined social media strategy, ensuring effectiveness and encouraging adoption of relevant social media techniques into Vology’s corporate culture; Deliver on time and on budget social campaigns which surpass expected performance; Manage social media campaigns and presence in social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter, and other similar community sites, posting on relevant blogs, and seeding content into social applications as needed
• Work with Sales and Marketing to create compelling viral campaigns to drive awareness and sales across all key product lines; Create, track and maintain a social media strategy that drives sales; Develop plans to support new product launches and company initiatives; Coordinate with Marketing on the development of new features, including defining the concept, creating specifications, defining user experience, managing design and development, and post-launch maintenance; Investigate and implement new technologies, services and automation capabilities and/or vendor solutions that enhance social media efforts
• Maintain up to date cutting edge knowledge resources on all new and developing social media strategies; Experiment with new and alternative ways to leverage social media activities; Strategize with and educate the management team and others across the company on incorporating relevant social media techniques into the corporate culture and into all of the company’s products and services
• Monitor effective benchmarks for measuring the impact of social media programs, and analyze, review, and report on effectiveness of campaigns in an effort to maximize results; Identify and interpret social media trends; Research, propose and prioritize new opportunities for social media marketing and advertising campaigns; Provide metrics and ROI for participation in social media sites to ensure success

• Other duties or special projects as assigned.

Education and/or Experience:
• Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent or 4+ year’s previous online marketing experience; 3+ years in a Social Media role; and at least two years experience managing social media efforts for a sales-centric organization

• Demonstrated knowledge of how to maintain and grow a social media presence across an array of networks and technologies; strong understanding within a broader marketing mix

• Must have a solid understanding of new media, social networking, and cutting edge community tools and techniques, and must be personally involved in various social media platforms

• Hard-working, goal-oriented individual with a strong passion for online communities, social networking and web content

• Experience creating and executing a social media strategy that builds fan base, and increases engagement and drives sales

• Successful track record in the development of growth of online communities, including ROI using social media channels and technology

Other Abilities/Skills:
• Ability to embrace and manage change

• Ability to multi-task in a fast paced environment with changing priorities/deadlines

• Ability to organize and prioritize workload

• Passion for a start-up, entrepreneurial environment

• Excellent communication skills

• Well organized with excellent time management skills