Magazine article Personnel Journal

The Unexpected Lessons of the Conference

Magazine article Personnel Journal

The Unexpected Lessons of the Conference

Article excerpt

It's time for my annual summer vacation. Oh, I'm not taking any time off, but I am enjoying the respite that follows the spring conference season. For some reason, there seem to be an inordinate number of conferences for HR executives each year between the beginning of April and the last week of June.

These meetings are always valuable in our ongoing efforts to keep current on the trends that are affecting readers and to identify specific story ideas. This year's conferences were no exception; I feel much more connected to the HR community for having gone.

This year, however, when it was all over I was struck more by the so-called "soft" HR issues that I encountered during the course of day-to-day living on the road than I was by the collective wisdom of the seminars I attended. It seems all too easy to get caught up in strategic HR programs and the cost of those programs at the expense of looking at how people actually behave each day while they're doing their jobs. I get trapped in that tendency myself, partially because corporate America is so fixated on the bottom line right now, and partially because there's an inherent appeal in the tangible. We can get our hands around programs.

It's tougher to get our hands around behavior. Yet, in the end, how people behave on the job is what really drives business, and it's what people consider when they decide how to spend their money. This spring--in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans and St. Louis--I spent a lot of time on airplanes, in hotels, in taxis, at convention centers and at a host of tourist and business attractions. So much related experience in such a compressed time period inevitably underscored the dichotomy between those organizations that seem to have solid hiring, training and reward initiatives and the organizations that seem unfamiliar with the concepts. Certainly I have opinions about where I'll spend my money in the future.

I will spend my money again at the restaurant in Chicago at which the hostess took the initiative to move us to another table when staff members who were cleaning an outside dining area kept going in and out, and each time let in a blast of cool air; I won't return to the restaurant in New Orleans at which I was kept waiting (unacknowledged) for 10 minutes before I was seated and left for another 15 minutes (unacknowledged) before anyone brought me water or took my order. …

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