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    Notes from #SHRM11 - Day 0.5

    The two most uneventful blocks of time at a major conference are the first half-day or so before the event properly begins in earnest, usually with a flashy, exciting, get the crowd pumped up opening keynote by someone famous; and the last half-day where a slightly less flashy, exciting but not quite so exciting and not quite as relevant or famous as the opener, and meant to help wind down (what's left of) the crowd winds down the proceedings.Maren Hogan loves HR

    I'm sitting in the SHRM National Conference & Exposition Press Room, with maybe 2 or 3 other folks, in the former time block I just described, it is about 4 hours or so until Sir Richard Branson's opening keynote gets the conference officially launched.  Now there are a number of pre-conference sessions and workshops going on prior to the opening keynote, but certainly the vast majority of attendees see the keynote, and the subsequent opening of the Expo floor as the start of the three-day swag-a-palooza.

    So without much real content or news to mention, I'll just toss out a set of random notes and observations from #SHRM11 - Day 0.5 (before anything significant has actually happened).

    Travel - man air travel in the US in the summer is a nightmare. Five hour delay yesterday, followed by three separate flights to get to Vegas only to find my room in the Las Vegas Hilton was essentially flooded from a leak in the A/C unit. At midnight last night that was not fun.

    Vegas - It's hot. Stop talking about it. And stop with the 'What happens in Vegas goes on Twitter/Facebook' jokes. They stopped being funny in abour 2008.

    Facilities - You know the 'wear comfortable shoes' advice you were given about SHRM? I hope you followed it. The LV Conference Center is a massive place. There seems to be lots of excellent wifi coverage here, in fact most of the wifi hotspot hubs have been crowded with people eating donuts, drinking coffee, and essentially doing all kinds of things you don't need wifi for.

    Gambling - I love sports. I sort of like gambling on sports. But in the dead of summer, there really isn't much in the way of sports to bet on. Matt Stollak just told me he took the over at +8 on the Brewers - Twins game. I think I may find an MLS Game to bet on.  Does David Beckham still play in the league?  

    Swag - Haven't seen much of the swag yet. Lots of printed materials for sure. And SHRM has set up some nice donation boxes for attendees to drop off unwanted swag items to donate to charity. I am not sure what kinds of charities are really interested in back issues of HR Magazine.  But still, it might better than getting another gross of 'Miami Heat - 2011 NBA Champions' hats. And it does seem like every vendor is giving away iPads this year. My sense is that none of them will be dropped in the charity box.

    So that's it from Day 0.5, check back soon for more dispatches from the front. 


    #SHRM11, TLNT, HRevolution, FOT, and Nirvana

    Tomorrow I am heading out to the SHRM 2011 Annual Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas, the first time for me attending the big annual SHRM extravaganza.  While I am there I'll be spending time with my friends Laurie RuettimannChina Gorman , and Terry Starr from Dice as part of Dice.com's event programming. You can learn more about what Laurie, China, and I will be doing, and see our schedules for Dice's booth #2616 here. Dice.com is the leading careers site for Technology professionals and for the companies looking for them, and it is 100% true that the best job I ever had I found on Dice.com.

    And also out at SHRM I'll be joining the crew from TLNT.com for the debut of TLNT Radio, broadcasting live from the SHRM Social Media Lounge on Tuesday June 28th at 2PM ET / 11AM PT. Lance Haun and John Hollon from TLNT will be on board, and we have a great lineup of guests slated to join us for the first show.  You can learn more about the show on TLNT.com and listen live next Tuesday on the show page here.

    And don't forget that tickets for the next HRevolution event, this one taking place in Las Vegas on October 2, 2011, are on sale here. The early discounted tickets are all gone, but there is still time for you to be a part of the most exciting event happening in the HR space today.

    Register for HRevolution - Las Vegas in Las Vegas, NV  on Eventbrite

    Also, today is my turn on Fistful of Talent, with a take on change, electric cars, and anxiety - Range and Change Anxiety: Electric Cars Are More Like Your Company Than You Think..... I'd love for you to give it a read and let me know what you think.

    And last thing, the 'Nirvana' in the post title is in recognition that this coming September marks the 20th anniversary of Nivana's essential album 'Nevermind', and this week the band's label Universal, announced plans to celebrate with a bonus-packed reissue. Nothing like the 20th anniversary of a seminal album to make you feel old. Maybe grabbing up the 'bonus-packed' reissue will help you relive some of that teen spirit yourself (email and rss subscribers click through)

    Have a great weekend and if you'll be at SHRM National please come by the Dice.com Booth #2616 and say hello.


    Traffic, housing choices, and commitment

    A couple of weeks ago I posted about an interactive map/tool for the San Francisco area that was developed (at least in part), to help people understand the decisions and tradeoffs related to their choices and opportunities for work and housing. Simply put, the tool helps you assess the costs and commuting times and options associated with Living in Location 'A' and working in Location 'B'. Some of these dynamics and tradeoffs are changing of course, but still for many jobs, the requirement for employees to be physically present in an office or other work location is a fact of life, and will remain so probably forever.

    Decisions about where to work and where to live are never easy matters, but for some fortunate folks like C-suite executives or National Basketball Association head coaches, (yes, another sports reference), the decisions are a bit easier, as their comparatively more lucrative compensation packages provide more options and flexibility in terms of housing choices. Let's face it, there are not too many neighborhoods that an average CEO or NBA coach would feel were out of reach.

    That is what I was thinking about this morning when I read a piece from the online Orange County (Ca.) Register about new Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach Mike Brown, and his decision to buy a home in a neighborhood called Anaheim Hills.  Only having been an occasional visitor to Southern California, that headline did not really resonate with me, but digging in to the piece reveals a bit more about the potential consequences and ramifications of Brown's decision:

    According to Google Maps, (Brown's new home) that’ll be 45 minutes to practice without traffic (but an hour and 20 minutes with traffic) and 43 minutes to Staples without traffic (but an hour and 40 minutes with traffic.)

    Brown is sacrificing proximity to his Lakers work to be close to Santa Ana’s Mater Dei High (emphasis mine). That’s where son Elijah will play basketball and son Cameron will play football

    Everyone, even the occasional visitor to the LA area like myself, knows or at least is subconsciously aware of LA traffic, and the way in which it effects work and family life in that area. For new Lakers Head Coach Brown, who has a contract paying him (according to reports), $18.25M over four years, to elect to live in an area that will almost certainly present pretty significant challenges and stress simply getting to work has raised at least a few questions amongst supporters and media that cover the team.

    Could it be that Brown, recently fired as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers despite being named the league's Coach of the Year the prior season, is well aware of the total lack of job security that comes with being an NBA coach, and thusly elected to choose housing that was more in line with his non-work or family life? NBA coaches are notoriously known as incessant workaholics, and the league is rife with tales of coaches sleeping in their offices, missing important family events, and generally devoting themselves to the sport and their teams. I am not saying that is the right or intelligent approach, but it just has been that way for a long time.

    Perhaps Brown represents a shift from that old-fashioned and unhealthy kind of approach to life as an NBA head coach, and by choosing to live closer to the center of his family life he is signaling that he sees that balance or fit between the two as being just as important as success on the court. If so, that is to be commended I think.

    But I do wonder if the Lakers organization sees it the same way, and if they are looking at their new $18M coach who potenitally will be frequently stuck on the freeway, navigating LA's notorious traffic jams to try and get to the game or to practice, when it seems at least from the outside looking in that he had lots of other options.

    What do you think? Should the Lakers or any organization care or get involved on the personal choices their leaders make about these kinds of things?

    How far away from the Arena is too far?



    Disconnect (but rendered in nice colors)

    I sort of think the infographic craze is starting to get a bit played out and certainly a bit overused. But once in a while I catch an infographic, (or in this case two infographics), that whether it is the compelling design or simply the starkness of the data being described I think are worth sharing. 

    Both the below infographics are from the GOOD.is site, and when taken together, they paint a picture of a significant disconnect between the education and demonstrated achievement that today's employers demand, and the stark reality of trends in demographics and experiences in a changing and increasingly diverse population. Take a quick look at the two charts and think about the data for a minute.

    Chart 1 - Educating the Workforce of the Future (click image to see in full-size)

    Money point : We need to produce significantly more workers with either Bachelor's or at least Associate's or Trade School credentials to meet the expected demand for these skills.

    Source : GOOD.is

    Chart 2 - The Opportunity Gap (click image to see in full-size)

    Money point : The faster growing segments of our population also have the worst prospects to attain the advanced degrees and certifications that we know the workplace will increasingly demand.

    Source : GOOD.is

    There's an obvious disconnect here between what kinds of education and experiences the future worplace will require, and the ability of the complex combination of primary schools, colleges, trade schools, labor unions, communities, government, and really all of us to provide. It can be argued that on a micro-level that employers can and should relax some of these often artifical educational requirements, and that these kinds of barriers really don't do a great job at helping organizations obtain superior talent. I even took on the subject here once. 

    But even if some employers take steps to expand their thinking around degree requirements there is no doubt that overall, the gap or disconnect in education and skills will persist, and possibly drive even more work, opportunity, and income to other parts of the world that are adapting more rapidly to these changes that we are here in the US. 

    I certainly don't have a simple answer to address these kinds of systemic, structural issues, but I do think that talking about them more is a needed initial step.

    What do you think? What can we do to better prepare for these shifts?

    Hat tip to Bryon Abramowitz whose presentation on these topics at the Aquire Structure 2011 conference put the bug in my ear to start thinking about this topic.


    Is it your turn to shut up? There's an app for that...

    A couple of months ago I joined my friend Kris Dunn the HR Capitalist, and Mike Carden the CEO of Human Resources technology vendor Sonar6 for a webcast titled 'Please Shut Up: The Idiot Proof Coaching Tool for Managers'. The presentation was about some simple, yet powerful strategies managers could use to become more effective as performance coaches.  You can still access the replay here. And you should give it a listen. The audience feedback was phenomenal, save for the one person that complained that perhaps the three of us were a bit 'too jocular'.

    As you may be able to tell from the Sonar6 webcast presentation title, shutting up was a big part of the coaching tool that we talked about - the main point was that all too often managers tend to dominate these kinds of performance discussions, prattling on and on about what the employee needs to do to become more effective, to stop acting like an idiot, and to finally come around and see the bosses way of doing things.

    As those of you with kids understand, this kind of browbeating, 'dominate the conversation' approach really begins to lose effectiveness on them at around age 11 or 12. Maybe sooner.

    So maybe you buy in to the notion that whether you are in performance coaching conversations with employees, or interviewing candidates for open positions, that shutting your trap just a little more often would be a good strategy. Or maybe you are trying to convince hiring managers or recruiters on your team that 'actually letting the candidate talk' might be the best way to help make some of those tricky cultural fit judgments, then be cheerful, as is the case for almost everything these days - there's an app for that.

    The Talk-O-Meter is an iPhone app that uses voice recognition and biofeedback to calculate, in real time, which person in a conversation is doing most of the talking. Simply fire up the app, set the iPhone on the table in between the participants, do a quick voice level and tone calibration, and from there the Talk-O-Meter monitors the conversation in 1, 3, or 5-minute intervals. At the end of each interval, the app displays a bar split into two colors, representing the ratio of who spent the most time jawboning.

    Face it, almost all of us like the sound of our own voices. It can be really hard to warm up to the notion that the other person might actually have something important, interesting, and relevant to add to our own little daily soliloquies. I get that.

    But a simple little tool like the Talk-O-Meter might be just the thing you need to get a bit of self-awareness going, and may even help you see just how much you are dominating the proceedings, be it a performance review/coaching session or an interview.

    Or when faced with your next meeting with Mr. or Ms. Knows it All and isn't afraid to make sure you know that they know it all, just do a quick, and sly Talk-O-Meter drop on them and show them the error of their ways.

    What do you think - would this kind of an application be a useful coaching tool?