HR Conferences around the world are all the same.
I can say this with authority. I’ve been to events in over thirty states in America, multiple events in Canada, the Caribbean, four countries in Western Europe, Turkey, Australia, and now India.
For as unique as we think we are, the global HR and recruiting profile at these events looks the same.
- About 30% are there on vacation. Everybody wants a day away from the office, and it’s nice to travel.
- Another 30% are there to learn. Whether it’s SHRM credits or professional development, people want to grow.
- And the final 30% are there with some hesitation. These attendees are not fully engaged at work. Some are burned out. They dare you to teach them something, smartypants.
Which one are you?
I admire the 30% of HR and recruiting professionals who attend conferences for vacation purposes. That’s some smart work-life balance action, right there! While your sole purpose at these events might be personal — as in personally sleeping late and getting some time away from your kids — I would encourage you to attend the networking events with the goal of meeting 1-2 new people. While it’s all about catching up on “me time,” your professional development could use some personalized attention.
If you’re part of the 30% of the group who is attending the event to learn, you are a huge nerd. HR and recruiting are relatively easy to learn. You don’t need a conference to make you an expert. I would challenge you to think about contributing in a new way. Be a speaker or volunteer at the next event. Be generous, pay it forward, and find a way to share your expertise.
Finally, if you’re part of the skeptical third of the audience who isn’t sure about this whole event: I feel your pain. Conferences can be obnoxious and also light on content. I know it feels like everybody is selling you stuff. It’s true. They are selling you goods and services. True thought leadership is a rare commodity. I would encourage you to change your perspective and approach each session with good intent. Don’t be proactively disappointed. Allow the speaker to disappoint you in real-time. (Ha!) In the end, you might surprise yourself and learn something.
Who else attends?
Now, some of you math wizards are about to tell me that 30% plus 30% plus 30% doesn’t equal 100%. Thanks, geniuses. I work in HR, but I’m not dumb.
The final 10% of the people who attend conferences are outside of HR and recruiting. It’s the CFO or COO who wants to investigate more about this space. After all, HR and recruiting departments are only separate because the art of managing people is complicated and messy. Technological advancements and automation mean that HR and recruiting become a little easier and blended into regular business operations.
So if I have one piece of advice for all HR and recruiting professionals around the world, it’s this: attend a non-HR event and learn more about the business of your business. While your expertise is valuable, it’s a commodity. And there’s a massive global movement to commoditize and automate HR.
The best HR people aren’t just HR people. Develop your body of knowledge outside of HR to ensure that you’re positioned well during those times when HR’s role is evaluated and judged for its impact on the business. Don’t be made redundant because you’ve spent too much time in HR and not enough time looking at the global landscape.
Laurie Ruettimann is a former HR leader and an influential speaker, writer and marketing advisor. Her work has appeared in many mainstream print publications and major news media outlets. You can find her on twitter at @Lruettimann.