The first day of the Senior HR Executive Conference was a fascinating day of presentations, discussion, and a real inside look at some of the HR practices in some of the world's largest companies.
HR Executives from Coca-Cola, Unilever, HP, FedEx and Chiquita Brands were just some of the organizations sharing their insights for a group of about 100 Senior HR executives (and a few of us lowly bloggers).
Some obsevations and highlights from Day 1:
Guarded Optimism - Some quick polls taken of the 100 or so Senior HR Executives in the room expressed fairly positive outlooks on business prospects and hiring trends in their organizations for 2010. Also interesting to note was that several of the presenters remarked that preserving and protecting employees and jobs from the effects of the recession was and remains a key component of ongoing strategy.
Talent - Almost every session touched on the problems that these mostly very large organizations see in acquiring, aligning, and engaging talent. It was actually surprising to hear several of the largest organizations still struggling with some basic and essential activities like consistent performance management or identification of successors for key leadership positions. While all presenters highlighted the new initiatives and improvements they were making, most indicated they still had much work to do in these areas. There was almost universal focus on 'high-potentials', identifying them, retaining them, and making sure they understood the organization had plans for their growth and success.
Globalization - Since almost all the sessions were presented by very large ,Fortune 100 type companies, there was plenty of dialogue on the problems and challenges in managing a global workforce, deploying technology that can support all the places the organization has presence, and making sure that senior leadership properly reflects and supports global operations. When Chiquita Brands talks about the need for a HRIS solution that will be acceptable for the low bandwith in the Costa Rican banana farms, you know you are dealing with a truly global set of issues.
Branding everywhere - Coca-Cola, the most famous 'brand' in the world, still has lots of work to do on their 'Employer' or 'Talent' Brand. That was a telling comment from such a powerful consumer company. If even a Coca-Cola is concerned about how to best communicate and articulate their EVP, pretty much every company probably needs to be concerned.
Agile Working - The most interesting session of the day was the closing keynote from Fiona Laird of Unilever. The presentation and discussion was on Unilever's 'Agile Working' approach, a new way of working that puts results first, emphasizes the ability to work from anywhere and at anytime, and is supported by management processes and evaluations, the design of physical space, and the critical technologies that can unleash workers from their traditional '9-5' desk jobs. According to Unilever, the Future of Work is flexible, mobile, and 100% results focused. That message was an excellent way to close the day.
I plan on diving in to a few of these themes in the next week or so, and also some thoughts on what was not talked about much by the HR Executives (social media, social networking).
Thanks so much to the folks at the Conference Board for inviting me to attend.