#SHRM11 - Day 4 impressions

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

So, I would have loved to have posted this yesterday, but, in a SHRM world where conference days are measured in dog time, and one day is so jam packed it feels like a week, I simply didn't get to it until this morning.  So, here are the highlights, lowlights, and other trivia from Day 4:

Keynotes kept getting better and better.  From the Q&A with Richard Branson, and the sterling performance from Arianna Huffington, it was turned up to 11 with Tony Hsieh from Zappos.  His talk on happy employees and customers was so good, John Hollon of TLNT.com described him "as the SHRM speaker that all others are compared to for a long time to come."

Great session speakersLaurie Ruettimann spoke on "The Future Of HR is Social" and Joe Gerstandt spoke on "No. Great Minds Do Not Think Alike." Both were compelling speakers, with a good message.  Blog posts on both to come.

SHRM Academic Initiatives continues to grow.    At a luncheon, SHRM Academic Initiatives talked about the continued efforts to improve the guidelines for students pursuing a major in human resources.  The number of schools aligning with these standards increases steadily, with the hopes that every student gains the appropriate knowledge that the future working world requires.

My dogs are barking.  A little less walking today.  "Only" 14,022 steps and 7.89 miles. That brings a three day total of 64, 868 steps and 35.55 miles.  This blog should be sponsored by New Balance.

More money, more problems.  While the SHRM conference kept me constantly busy, I really haven't had time to gamble (other than a small $15 win betting on the Brewers over the Twins) until yesterday.  But, despite my best efforts to give my money to the dealer and the MGM Grand, I ended up winning $425 playing blackjack.  So, I am well on my way to getting the iPad2 that was denied me in the Exhibit Hall.  Suck it, vendors!

Now, on to the final day of the SHRM Conference and Michael J. Fox

#SHRM11 - Day 3 Impressions

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Conference truly kicked off in full gear on Day 3, with sessions starting at 7:00 a.m., and parties lasting into the night.   Here is the recap of the day:

*Arianna delivered the goods.  Opening keynote Arianna Huffington provided an inspiring talk, and it was wonderful to hear a speaker advocating the appropriate use of social media.   She told a few jokes, advocated a sleep policy, encouraged the audience to write her (arianna@huffingtonpost.com), and answered audience questions with aplomb.

*SRO.  With an estimated 18,000 attendees, it was not surprising to discover that many rooms were filled to capacity, and people were turned away at the door.  At least two sessions, I wanted to attend at 10:45 A.M. were full.

*Vendors - use your booth numbers.  While every vendor I spoke with seemed eager to talk about their product, it was often difficult to locate a particular booth because the booth number was either obscured by the fancy set-up, or the vendor simply took down the identifying number.   Make sure your booth number is visible, please.

*The Social Media Lounge was hopping.  SHRM's PR and Social Media Director Curtis Midkiff's effort to enhance the Social Media efforts of SHRM certainly paid off with the Social Media Lounge sponsored by BranchOut.  It was a continual hub of activity with a bevy of individuals writing their blog, tweeting, and conversing in person.  It has been THE place to be at the 2011 SHRM Annual Conference.

*HREvolution planning continues unabated.   Given the mileage that separates many of us, coming together at SHRM allows for greater collaboration.  Today provided an excellent opportunity to get together with HREvolution founders Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane to discuss speakers, agenda, and other HREvolution activities.   If you are liking SHRM in Vegas in June, you are going to LOVE the 4th iteration of HREvolution in October with the HR Tech ConferenceTickets are available now.

Parties - It was great to meet up with all the Wisconsin attendees at the Badger Bash at Blondies in Planet Hollywood.   The festivities continued at the wonderful SHRM Tweetup at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.   Some of the resemblances of the figures were uncanny.

*Dogs are still barking.   The Fitbit tells me I walked 23,945 steps for a total of 13.57 miles.   The bottom of my feet are killing me, but with the day's events, it was worth it

#SHRM11 - Shane Yount - Leadership GPS

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, June 27, 2011

Despite some early mic problems that made the early portion of his presentation sound like a bad Richard & Sal prank phone call from the Howard Stern show, Shane Yount's presentation of Leadership GPS (Goals, People, Systems) provided a competent challenge to current leadership dogma.

He started off with a central question - where are you in terms of leading your organization?   He followed with the flaws that make reaching your destination somewhat cloudy - physical proximity, persuasion, and position.   According to Yount, one can't be consistent using or leading with these three P's.

So, how do you get back on course?  According to Yount, it is through the common business language of connection, clarity and consistency.

Yount then moved to the question of are you winning or losing as an organization.   Can you answer this question with the appropriate data and metrics?   Scorecards that educate, facilitate, and motivate can assist you in the process.

Yount further argued about whether leaders truly engage their people.   Do we have a culture of selective engagement or collective accountability?  If we are to emphasize accountability, it must become personal and visible to truly be real.   Yount gave an example of an Action Register to make people accountable.

Finally, Yount focused on systems, looking at one aspect - communication.   He noted, "what people don't know, they make up." 

By focusing on the the three factors of goals, people, and systems, Yount demonstrated leadership can better serve its employees and organization.

#SHRM11 - The One Thing You Must Do - Visit the SHRM Foundation

by Matthew Stollak

I know there are a lot of temptations here in the sin city of Las Vegas...the slot machines, a Cirque du Soleil show, the $4.99 steak and seafood special.

However, there is one thing you truly must visit before Leaving Las Vegas...the SHRM Foundation booth at the center of the Expo Hall.   Why?

  1. The SHRM Foundation provides $100,000 in scholarships to HR professionals, $50,000 in student membership scholarships, and $20,000 in Doctoral Dissertation Awards.
  2. The SHRM Foundation is a leading funder of rigorous, evidence-based research, with more than $1.3 million in ongoing research projects.
  3. The SHRM Foundation continually gives many of the products that are the results of their efforts away for free to the greater HR community, such as the Effective Practice Guidelines, and DVDs, such as their most recent endeavor, "Making Mergers Work."
  4. The SHRM Foundations created the annual Thought Leaders Retreat, which "brings together a select group of leading-edge thinkers and executives in the HR field. Participants explore issues shaping the future of the profession and their implications for research and practice"

So, please stop by the SHRM Foundation booth and make the Foundation even stronger.  If you are reading this at home, go visit the SHRM Foundation website and read more about the great things the SHRM Foundation does

#SHRM11 - Day 2 impressions

by Matthew Stollak

 Day Two of the 2011 SHRM Annual Conference has come to an end (at least for me...thousands are likely still out taking in the Vegas nightlife).   Here are a few impressions from Day 2.

Meet the New Boss...Same as the Old Boss.  This The Who lyric came to mind as Hank Jackson had the "interim" part of his CEO title removed, as was widely speculated.   He shared his rags to riches story, and its nice to know than a failed NBA player can live the dream and become CEO of SHRM.  It'll be interesting to see what moves he will make and whether he will take a more active role in social media than his predecessors.

#HRThisandThat with Sir Richard Branson - The opening session with Richard Branson did not live up to a man of his stature, and the format was as deflated as one of Branson's failed balloon trips.  While he had a lot of valuable information, the Q and A format was not as successful as one hoped with questions like "Is your success the result of genius or luck."   The questions texted to him from the audience made me wonder if that was truly the cream of the crop that were asked.

Rule #1 of the Exhibit Hall was violated several times.   As noted previously in this blog, my one piece of advice to SHRM 2011 attendees was to not stop in the middle of an aisle to have a conversation, thereby slowing traffic and inconveniencing others.  Alas, several did not follow this simple rule of courtesy, making the exhibit hall much more difficult to navigate. 

The TLNT Tweetup.  As expected, this was the highlight of the day, as good food, good drinks, laughter, and seeing @HRFishbowl cut a rug made the party quite the success

No Discussion of the Flaws of the Student Case Competition.  Several chapter advisors were hoping to discuss the many flaws of the student case solving competition that replaced the Regional HR Games this year at some point during the day and a half student conference.  Unfortunately, such discussion did not take place.  One hopes that the three page letter I sent in April regarding the flaws will be addressed soon.

My Dogs are Barking.   I checked the Fitbit as I typed this, and it indicated I had walked 26, 901 steps and 14.09 miles today.   The emphasis on comfortable shoes cannot be stressed enough.

Onto Day 3 in the morning.

#SHRM 11 - Day 1 Highlights and Trends

by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, June 26, 2011

The first of the four and a half day SHRM 2011 Annual Conference is in the books.

Most of the day was spent with the Student Conference.  The consistent theme running through out the day was generational differences.  From Aaron Kesher's opening session to Joshua's Fredenburg's keynote address to the social media session to close the day, generational differences were on everyone's mind.

Highlights include:
*The social media session moderated by SHRM's Social Media Guru, Curtis Midkiff, featuring panelists John Nykolaiszyn, Robin Schooling, Matt Charney, and Laurie Ruettimann, certainly delivered the goods.  They focused on how to network, the importance of a MBA, how to develop a backbone in HR, how you get into HR, and a few HR horror stories were thrown in for good measure.  More importantly, the students were engaged and drew a lot of good knowledge from the panel.

*Continued support of student programs and the future HR leaders of tomorrow.  An excellent colleague, Dr. Jeff Walls, was selected as the 2011 Advisor of the Year.   He is a shining example of the great work advisors do to help students pursue careers in HR, and is a sterling choice to be recognized.  Similarly, there were nearly 300 students, advisors, and guests attending today's conference, and it is wonderful to see strong passion for human resources at a young age.

*The volunteers.  Kudos to the nearly 700 volunteers who assisted everyone today as they helped register, hand out bags, and direct people to the proper location.  Without their assistance, the conference would fall into chaos.

*The networking.  Its great to catch up with people in real life who you may only chat with on Twitter and Facebook.  Over dinner at Fiamma, the conversation was strong as we talked HR and other matters, reflected on who unfortunately could not attend, and laughed.  Special, special thanks to Matt Charney and Monster.com for supporting the dinner.

On to day two.

#SHRM11 - Aaron Kesher - "Generations at Work"

by Matthew Stollak on Saturday, June 25, 2011

The student conference started off in strong form with Aaron Kesher's "V+B+X+Y:Generations at Work," with V standing for veterans, B for Baby Boomers, X for Generation X, and Y for Generation Y/Millenials.

Kesher began by having each generation give their perspective on the other three generations by working backward, having the Millenials kick it off.   Examples included Millenials thinking that Boomers "work harder, not smarter" and that Boomers use too much paper.

Kesher then detailed what exactly is a "generation."  One important note cited was that the discussion is primarily U.S. driven, and we are only now started to look at generational differences internationally.

Kesher used the remaining time to look at each generation specifically, focusing on what "work is...,"their work ethic, their perspective on work/life balance, and how each group was impacted by technology.   Finally, he look at how employers can address the motivation of each generation at work.  Veterans, for example, would be served by recognizing their loyalty, providing a personal touch (such as a handwritten note), and giving them visible symbols of status.

To an audience that encompassed all four generations, Kesher provided a welcome overview of the topic for those somewhat versed in the topic, while engaging those for whom the material is new.


by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tomorrow, I head to Las Vegas for the SHRM 2011 Annual Conference & Exposition.  Like last year, I will be blogging it up...In the spirit of Spinal Tap's noted auteur, Marty DiBergi, I hope to capture...the sights, the sounds...the smells....of the 2011 Annual SHRM Conference. I hope to get that...and a lot more. But, hey, enough of my yakkin'....

So, what do you all want to read about from the conference? What stories do you want to hear about? Here are some of the initial blog ideas I hope to bring you:
  1. Behind the scenes of the student conference - Every Saturday, SHRM Student Programs puts on a mini-conference for students and student chapter advisors. This year, it will include a social media panel with the likes of John Nykolaiszyn, Matt Charney, Robin Schooling, and Laurie Ruettimann. What does the Future of HR look like?
  2. Attending the SHRM Annual Conference as a student. What does a student expect to capture from his or her attendance? What did he or she think about the experience? What did he or she think about the exhibit hall? Was he or she treated well by fellow HR professionals? Exhibitors?
  3. The Exhibit Hall - what were the best and worst displays? What were the best and worst freebies? Will Monster.com once again bring the biggest menace to the exhibit hall experience...the rollerbag!?!?
  4. Does any one really win at the exhibit hall? By now, many are receiving conference pamphlets from vendors requesting that they stop by a vendor's booth for a chance to win an iPod, Garmin, TomTom, iPad, gift card, etc. This will be my 11th SHRM Annual Conference, and in the previous 10 years I've won bupkus. Do people really win the prizes advertised?
  5. The party scene - Lots of parties night to counterbalance the bevy of educational opportunities in the day.  Sunday brings you the TLNT Tweet-up.  Monday has The SHRM11 TweetUp and the Badger Bash (sponsored by the WISHRM state council).
  6. Other topics may include SHRM's Academic Initiatives as well as the SHRM Foundation.
What do you want to read about?

Such a Good Thing

by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, June 19, 2011

The SHRM 2011 Annual Conference & Exposition is mere days away.  

I know you're excited. You've bought your new outfits from Ann Taylor.  You packed your comfy shoes.  You've been told to take off your badge as you leave the convention center.

However, I have one piece, THE piece, of advice for the 17,000 new and returning attendees that you haven't been told:


What does this mean?

1. Slower Traffic Keep Right.
Yes, this is just like the highway, except there is a lot more traffic in a much more confined space.  People are trying to get to sessions, meetings, etc., and walking slowly, in the middle of any pathway, checking your e-mail or Twitter updates on your Blackberry or iPhone is not helping anyone.

2.  If you are wearing a backpack or pulling a rollerbag, be aware of your surroundings especially if you are coming to a stop or turning around.  Most likely, you are going to trip someone, or knock over the $8 Starbucks he or she just purchased.

3.  If you see a friend or colleague, don't stop in the middle of the aisle to start up a conversation.  Keep moving and find a more remote location to continue speaking.  This is particularly true in the crossroads of the expo hall.

If you follow the above, you are not only going to make yourself, but others around you that much happier.

Now, kids, get off my lawn, and enjoy the conference.


by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, June 16, 2011

In 8 days, I will be flying out to Las Vegas for the 2011 SHRM Annual Conference.  One of the rites of passage associated with registering and attending the conference is the bevy of mail you receive from vendors hoping to lure you to their booth to discuss the latest in HR technology, drug testing, relocation, etc.   Occasionally, they entice you with the promise of a certain geegaw that you can't find at any other booth.  It would not be uncommon to receive 13+ pieces of mail a day in the 3 weeks prior to the start of the conference.

However, the pitch has changed.......

Last year, at the SHRM Annual Conference I had the opportunity to be part of the 1st "SHRM Blog Squad," where I had the opportunity to highlight many of the conference events.  You can read more details about it here.  Thanks to Curtis Midkiff (@shrmsocmedguy) and Jennifer Hughes (@SHRMPress), I will once again be able to share my feeble thoughts on the conference yet again.  However, because of my registration as a blogger for the conference, I have yet to receive a single piece of vendor mail.

However, I have been inundated with e-mails from vendors asking me to set up appointments to meet with their CEO or hear about their latest product, presumably as a pitch to feature him or her or the product in my blog.   In addition, I have receive numerous calls from these companies following up on their e-mails.

As a courtesy to these vendors, let me tell you about my credentials:
1.  I am an Associate Professor of Business Administration.
2.  In that role, I make approximately .1% of any decision affecting the human resources of our organization.,
3.  In the words of Lloyd Dobler, in "Say Anything:" "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that"

So, I may be the wrong audience to target.

The one thing missing is a little WIIFM: What's In It For Me.  What do I get out of taking time out of my busy SHRM Conference schedule to hear your pitch and feature your product/service/CEO in my blog?  (One company who shall remain nameless did offer a "blogger gift bag;" if it anything like actors receive at the Oscars or college football players get when they attend a bowl game, count me in).

Which gives me an idea......

In 2010, Morgan Spurlock released the movie "POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold:"
In the film, he sets out to finance the movie by getting advertisers to sponsor the film, which is essentially a movie about how advertising is polluting our lives and minds.

Given how many pitches I have received in the past couple weeks, I have decided to become a sell-out myself:

1. Sponsor my blog

If it worked for Morgan Spurlock, it can work for me.  I am more than willing to rename my blog, "(Your company name) presents: True Faith HR."  I'd be glad to include your company logo in every SHRM11 blog post I write.  I'd include your company name in every tweet I issue.  I'd even include pictures of myself in your company clothing line.  As my blog and tweets will likely reach thousands of eyes, what better way to get your name out there.

Just make me an offer.

2.  Draw my name at your booth for your "Grand Prize."

This will be my 11th SHRM Annual Conference in a row.  In my previous 10 years of attending the conference, I have yet to have my name drawn as the winner of a booth's grand prize.  You lure me in with the promise of an iPod, laptop, or GPS, yet each year I leave empty handed.  I remain firmly convinced it is due to the credentials listed above; if I am not likely to buy your product, why give me the prize. 

BUT.....now I have this blog.  Why give the prize to Donna in benefits from Boise, Idaho.  Draw my name instead.  You can be sure as all get out that I will be talking about my new iPad 2 on this blog and I'll be giving your company all sorts of props here.   C'mon, what better way to make your company look magnanimous that giving this here blogger your prize?!?!?

So, vendors, what say you?   I'm not expensive....I'll take an iPad 2, Amazon gift card, Tom Toms, pound notes, loose change, bad checks, anything.   Do I have to come right flat out and tell you everything?

Serious inquiries only!

World in Motion

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I serve on the Benefits Advisory Committee for our school.  We meet weekly to discuss many of the aspects of our benefits plan, and I would say that 80-85% of our time is spent on health care and its related issues: switching providers, amending the dental plan, looking for cost savings.   Our benefit administrator spends significant amounts of time dealing as well with employee interaction with that plan.

So, it was interesting to read the news that the flawed McKinsey study that argues 30% of employers wil drop health insurance by 2014 ( for some discussion of the problems with the McKinsey study, click here and here).  It got me to thinking, why are employers in the health care business?  Given how much time, energy, and resources our HR Department spends, is the competitive advantage of providing it to attract applicants worth the effort?

Further, why are employers opposed to a single payer or Medicare-for-all system? Wouldn't HR be freed up to handle more employee performance and strategic issues instead of spending all the time dealing with insurance companies?  Wouldn't employees be more productive instead of fretting over filling out yet another flexible spending account reimbursement form?

I understand the cost implications of it, but what would be the disadvantage(s) purely from the standpoint of operating your business?


Guilt is a Useless Emotion

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, June 13, 2011

Tonight I watched the GOP Presidential Debate from New Hampshire on CNN.  In an effort to get to know the candidates, a series of "fun" questions, known as This or That, were asked as CNN went to commercial.  For example:

Herman Cain, Former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, was asked "Deep Dish or Thin Crust" (Deep Dish was his answer.

Newt Gingrich was asked, Dancing with the Stars or American Idol (Idol was his definitive answer)

Mitt Romney was asked Mild or Spicy Chicken Wings. (Mitt took a bold stand with spicy)

Ron Paul was asked Blackberry or iPhone (He went Blackberry, losing the crucial iPhone vote).

So, in that vein...what would be your HR This or That?
Organizing company picnics or giving performance reviews?
Seat-at-the-table or culture?
Team-building or organizing a wellness program?
Coach purses or flip-flops?
Drive Thru HR or HR Happy Hour?

So, what's your HR This or That?

Run 2

by Matthew Stollak

Today, I have a guest post at XpertHR where I take a light-hearted, truly Coperican take on the question "If I could change one thing about HR...."

Check it out here

Rock the Shack

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I know you come to True Faith HR for hard hitting HR analysis...and what could be more hard hitting than an analysis of SHRM Hotel costs.  Last June, I examined the cost of hotels at the 2010 SHRM Annual Conference, and found some significant differences.  Do those differences remain in 2011?

Once again, I looked at selected SHRM conference brochures (i.e., the ones that I still possessed) over the past 11 years to see what it was cost a person to book a single room on a per night average. Clearly, prices in 2001 will be different than in 2011, so I used an inflation calculator to adjust costs to 2011 dollars. So, how does Las Vegas compare to years past?

Cost of an Average SHRM-Affiliated Hotel (per night)
Using a typical Sunday-Wednesday night as a baseline:
San Francisco (2001): $251.47 (standard deviation = $55.44)
Chicago (2008): $247.23 (sd=$28.46)
San Diego (2010): $243.59 (sd=$41.93)
Washington DC (2006): $225.81 (sd=38.80)
Philadelphia (2002): $214.47 (sd=57.34)
San Diego (2005): $201.03 (sd=$49.02)
Las Vegas (2007): $162.58 (sd=$31.34)
Las Vegas (2011): $126.25 (sd=$17.51)

As expected, Las Vegas is statistically significantly cheaper than every other in the sample.  Its even statistically cheaper than 4 years ago.

Never has there been a better time than to attend the SHRM conference than today with hotel prices at their lowest prices by far.   Even adjusting for inflation, it is $36 cheaper to attend today than 4 years ago.    Once again, you'll be able to nab a 5-star hotel such as the Bellagio ($199 in 2007; $149 in 2011), Venetian ($189 in 2007; $139 in 2011) or Wynn ($215 in 2007, $139 in 2011) for a price of a hotel in the bottom quartile in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, or San Diego).  

But...you better start saving your pennies for 2013, as the conference will be in Chicago, and you'll likely be paying twice as much for hotel rooms as you are today.

See you in Vegas!

Here to Stay

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, June 3, 2011

I watched the film Waiting for Superman with great expectations, and, not surprisingly, those expectations were not met.  Directed by Davis Guggenheim (director of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and husband of actress Elizabeth Shue) , the documentary focuses on the failing U.S. school system, placing the blame on teacher unions coddling poor performing teachers and a system of tracking that makes it impossible for lower performing students to ever catch up with their higher performing peers.   Interspersed with these attacks is a look at 5 children hoping to stake their claim on one of the coveted spots in a charter school, the alternative which Guggenheim appears to champion.  While the film is to be applauded for raising questions about the state of education, and its heartbreaking to watch dedicated students suffer, the film has a number of flaws, particularly from a human resource perspective.

First, the film never explores what exactly defines "good teaching."  Guggenheim never mentions what turns people into better teachers what is the superior content that they deliver, as well as how they teach.  We are presented with two excellent teachers who are frustrated with their current school, start up a charter, and suddenly everything was hunky-dory.  But, it never demonstrates how and why they are better, and what barriers existed that made being superior so difficult in their former school.

Second, the process of hiring teachers is never explored.  How are charter schools hiring "better" teachers?  Are they offering a better salary? Better benefits?  Greater autonomy?  I checked out US Charters: Staffing for Success to see what the recommended approach to recruitment and selection might be and they offer 10 steps:
  1. Write a role description for each staff role.
  2. Identify required and desired qualifications and characteristics.
  3. Identify potential sources of staff.
  4. Promote your school.
  5. Recruit 
  6. Determine how you will screen candidates.
  7. Prepare materials and organize assistance. 
  8. Make initial selections.
  9. Notify all candidates of outcomes.  
  10. Draw up the contract
So, where is the magic?  What are charter schools doing differently in hiring than their public and private school counterparts in identifying and selecting superior candidates?

Finally, the last 20 minutes focuses on the lotteries for the 5 families mentioned above.  For the charter schools those families, Guggenheim cites that the school has "x applicants for y slots" (i.e., 142 applicants for 40 slots).   You can feel the tension in the air as the ping pong ball exits the hopper, and the families await their fate.   However, the scene ultimately fails in that Guggenheim doesn't tell us how many applicants did NOT apply for the lottery.  What is the percent of applicants to the total pool of students?  

Given that each lottery applicant represents a dedicated parent or set of parents (they would not have applied if they did not care about their child's education), the untold reason for the success of charter schools may very well be the 85, 90, 95% plus of involved caring parents.  As a result, are teacher unions and tracking really to blame when public school educators  are dealing with students whose parents are too busy or indifferent?