Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | October 27, 2010

HR Concepts: On Attending THE Conference

By Mike Deblieux, SPHR

PIHRA members often ask each other, “Are you going to THE conference?” It is as though the THE is understood to mean PIHRA’s conference. Each conference provides a unique experience for each attendee. Each day presents a myriad of opportunities to learn, network, and grow both personally and professionally.

In these economic times it is increasingly difficult to gather the money, time, and support to attend a three day conference. The irony is that these are times when every HR professional needs knowledge, information, and ideas. Let’s take a look at THE conference from the perspective of your role as an HR professional.

Continuing Education
One of the five pillars of “professional” as defined by the Society of Human Resources Management is an on-going process of continuing education. THE 2010 conference offered 16.5 of the sixty continuing education credits required for recertification as a PHR, SPHR, GPR, or CA. The wide ranging program offered credits in Strategic Management, Leadership, HR and the Law, HR and Technology/Innovation, Risk Management, and General Business topics. THE 2010 conference offered an opportunity to earn certification credits by participating in sessions presented by top speakers who are selected by HR professionals like you who serve on THE conference planning committee.

Food for Thought
THE conference provided a unique opportunity for a California HR professional to sit back, listen, and reflect on a wide variety of principles, concepts, and ideas. Some were conceptual. Others were ready for implementation back at work. Aman Motwane, for example, shared thought provoking concepts and examples on creativity. There was a long line of people waiting to buy his book, Yes, You Can Change the World. John Lattin, Fisher & Phillips, led an engaging session of Employment Law Jeopardy that tested everyone’s fundamental HR knowledge and reminded more than a few to go back to the basics for a refresher. Cindy Olson told a personal story about her experience as VP of HR at Enron. It was a presentation that made you sit and think, “What would I have done in her position?” Other sessions focused on mediation, strategy, benefits, EEOC charges, and more. If you paid attention, you left wanting more and asking yourself what you could do to upgrade, change, or improve your HR program and your personal HR skill set.

Networking
There is a side to THE conference that often goes unnoticed. It is the opportunity to establish and re-establish a network of professional friends and resources. This year, the Tuesday lunch provided an opportunity for attendees to sit with colleagues from their PIHRA District. They got to meet and connect with other HR professionals in their neighborhood. Each contact provided a potential nearby resource to help out on a workplace challenge. The PIHRA Listserv community shared lunch in the exhibit hall on Wednesday and Thursday. This is a group that talks together through a computer screen every day, but seldom gets to see each other. Meeting and getting to know the person on the other end of the keyboard makes asking a question and offering an answer just that much more meaningful. The trip to Dave and Busters and Casino Night seemed like opportunities to have fun. If you looked closely, however, you saw a lot of individual and small group conversations about the how, what, and why of HR. You also saw a group gather for what may be the first in history photo of Past PIHRA Presidents.

Resources
If you walked the aisles of the exhibit hall, you saw more than one hundred providers looking for an opportunity to introduce you to their products and services. Each exhibitor was ready, willing, and able to explain how they could help you do your job more efficiently and effectively. They offered the latest software, programs, and products. Even if you did not buy anything, you had an opportunity to learn about what is possible.

Giving Back
One side benefit of attending THE conference is supporting the PIHRA Foundation. Every year the PIHRA Foundation Silent Auction raises money to support You and Your First Job, HR scholarships, and other worthwhile Foundation endeavors. Visiting the Silent Auction allows you to contribute to a worthwhile cause, do a little shopping, and meet other HR professionals who want to give back to the community.

Lessons Learned
So what can you learn from attending THE conference?

First and foremost, attending THE conference is an investment in your professional self. It is a special place where you can gather a lot of information, ideas, and solutions to help you do your job. When you fail to invest in yourself and your career, you begin to plan for your own professional demise.

Second, it is a place where you can ask questions and get answers. It is always interesting to see how few people take the time to download the conference handouts and study them before they get to the registration desk. Those that do are ready to learn. They know which sessions they want to attend. They know what questions they plan to ask to get the most from each speaker. (By the way, good speakers love questions. You should never hesitate to ask one.)

Third, building a personal network of HR professionals is the great hidden value of attending THE conference. It cannot be underestimated. It might help you find an answer to a tough question. It might give you a much needed idea. It might even help you find your next HR job.

Fourth, building a library of potential support services and products is key to planning your future. Instead of just walking the exhibit hall, you should plan to stop at nearly every booth and say, “What do you do and how can you help me do my job more effectively and efficiently?’

So what are your plans for THE conference next year? Do you plan to attend. THE conference is in Anaheim August 29-31, 2011. Is it on your calendar? Have you started thinking about how you will pay for it even if your employer will not help you make this important investment in yourself? Have you submitted topics that you would like to learn more about to help THE conference planners? It is not too early to start planning. It is time to stop procrastinating. Attending THE conference should be high on your personal development priority list for 2011.

HR Concepts has been part of PIHRAscope since August 1995. Mike Deblieux, SPHR is a trainer and coach for front-line leaders. He has been a compensation analyst, HR Director and consultant in his career. He is a past president of PIHRA. He writes HR Concepts to help you understand and apply fundamental HR ideas, thoughts, and processes. Mike can be reached at mike@deblieux.com.

Copyright 2010 PIHRA

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