What I learned at #SHRM14

Last week, I attended my very first SHRM Annual Conference in Orlando – along with fellow Brandon Hall Group analysts Trish McFarlane and Ben Eubanks. For those of you who have yet to attend, suffice to say it has immediately secured a permanent spot on my travel calendar for years to come. The reasons are many, but come down to one thing: it was well worth my time.

#SHRM14 afforded me ample opportunities to connect with prominent voices in HR and talent management, as well as talking shop with your HR professionals. Beyond great networking, I also learned quite a bit this week:

  • SHRM is a giant organization. Ok, maybe this isn’t news to you. But it’s one thing to know a thing is true, and quite another to experience that truth. After spending three days with some 15,000 SHRMies, I realized why this is such an important event for my friends in the practitioner community. It’s a massive convergence of minds, all hungry to learn about how things are changing in the world of work – and how they can keep their organizations ahead of the game. This conference presents them with an opportunity to do that in a dynamic (and highly social) environment along with thousands of their peers.
  • HR Leaders are increasingly savvy. Many HR professionals are too busy fighting fires and managing day-to-day talent processes to look up and look ahead. As a result, relatively few have more than a passing understanding of many of the tools and technologies emerging in the space. But while the gap between innovation and adoption is still very wide, I learned last week that HR leaders are much savvier today than they were even five years ago. A number of the folks I sat down with had pointed questions about optimizing their sourcing efforts with social and mobile technology, and even a few were interested in discussing recruitment marketing strategy in detail. We’re still a long way off from a day when these practices are widely adopted, but it was encouraging to see so many organizations stepping up to the plate.
  • Relationships are invaluable resources. This was perhaps the most important thing I learned in Orlando last week – and what I wanted to be sure to bring back to my readers. I spent much of my time during #SHRM14 in the Blogger’s Lounge along with thought leaders from all over the country – from Alaska to Wisconsin to Louisiana. Some I’ve known and respected for years, others I was delighted to have finally met in person for the first time. Each and every one brought a wealth of knowledge, and all were eager to engage in thought-provoking conversations.  These folks are invaluable resources for analysts and practitioners alike, both as informed experts and as sounding boards.

I’ve often said an analyst’s job is to ask questions, and conferences present a great opportunity to do just that. Not only do I get to learn more about how talent acquisition is evolving directly from some of the world’s most innovative hiring organizations, I also get to connect with leading solution providers to get the inside scoop on new technologies and services supporting this evolution.

#SHRM14 certainly afforded plenty of both, though I was surprised to have many I met asking me the same question. “What are you doing at an HR conference?”

It’s a fair question considering there were only a handful of sessions on anything remotely talent acquisition. But when you think about how many HR managers also double up as heads of recruiting, it makes a bit more sense for me to be there. As I see it, I should be spending as much time with HR as I do with leaders in talent acquisition. They have a larger perspective of talent acquisition as it relates to human capital management, and it’s likely they have the greater need for specialized research.

To that end, I’ll be publishing my report on Navigating the Talent Acquisition Solution Provider Landscape in the next couple of weeks – and have a few more exciting projects coming soon on employer brand management and onboarding as a driver of engagement. Stay tuned!

Kyle Lagunas, Talent Acquisition Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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