18 Jun 2013
At a recent vendor user conference, attendees were there to learn about what that particular vendor was doing, and how other users were solving similar issues to what they were facing. At IHRIM 2 weeks ago in Orlando, attendees were there to find a system, and/or for the great session content with a technical edge. At SHRM in Chicago, people are simply HERE.
There’s no negative edge to that statement. It just means that there isn’t an obvious “agenda” amongst attendees. It also means that people are HERE in droves – 10’s of thousands of them. It’s like Disney in Chicago with the lines; a line to get into the opening session with Blake Mycoskie of Toms Shoes. A line to participate in the booth promotions like CareerBuilder’s virtual pop-a-balloon with a squirt gun game. A line for Achiever’s margaritas, and a line for the Glassdoor/SHRM event at the House of Blues with DJ Jazzy Jeff. And the Kelly Clarkson concert was mammoth.
On each occassion, just like It’s a Small World, people aren’t disappointed when they get to the front (OK, maybe some, but they’re just grumpy in general). People were still buzzing about Blake’s speech hours later. Plenty of schwag and knowledge to be pulled from the booths, margaritas and a concurrent TChat that were worth the wait. And then there was the House of Blues….wow. Chicago natives said that attendees of that party didn’t appreciate how crazy it was for all the levels of the HOB to be opened. Typically 100’s of dollars to get into some of the upper levels, doors were literally turned to glass for the SHRM/Glassdoor bash. And for hours DJ Jazzy Jeff made people dance. Never was it as obvious how many people are here than when the ground floor dancefloor shook like it might cave in.
There were trends and topics to consume, for those who were interested. The top 3 that I identified were:
1. PPACA and how technology can address it. Kronos did a presentation in the Expo hall that discussed how to manage affordable care and the 30 hour threshold. That drew a huge audience, and conversations throughout the conference tended to return to that topic.
2. Social in HR. Sessions ran continuously from the Hive that covered everything from managing negative content posted by employees to encouraging employee interaction. And conversations outside the Hive about Social were in abundance. What was surprising was the lack of “enterprise social” in conversation, as well as a lack of representation of social technology in the Expo Hall.
3. Performance Reviews, or lack thereof. For some reason, many people were bashing on performance reviews, going as far as to say that they just need to go. And then, one person would timidly raise their hand, for fear of being attacked, and ask where the data will come from for compensation decisions. I had the same thought, but kept my hand down.
As an HR Technologist, I sensed the SHRM audience lurking. You didn’t know if they’re looking to buy a system in the expo hall, pull some nuggets of HR wisdom from the sessions, or just enjoy the events and the fanfare. It’s like they were saying “we’re HERE but it’s up to you to figure out why.” And maybe you’ll never know…but that’s OK.