A Salute to the Volunteers – #SHRM17

The big show, SHRM’s Annual Conference and Exposition (SHRM17), officially kicks off tomorrow here in New Orleans; my Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with innumerable refrains of “I’m on my way” and “I’ve arrived; here’s a picture of me at Cafe du Monde/eating a po’boy/drinking a hurricane!  and “OMG it’s humid here!” (Welcome to south Louisiana in June my friends.)

Naturally, with close to 18,000 attendees and thousands of vendor reps in the massive Expo Hall, it takes a team of thousands to put on the event. The SHRM staff are experts at this of course but, for a show on this scale, they rely on local volunteers to assist in the smoothest of executions.

Meet Erin Thompson and Jim Casadaban , Volunteer Co-Chairs for the conference. Both of them have been very active SHRM Volunteer Leaders; each of them have served as Chapter President for NOLA SHRM and they’ve held roles on the Louisiana SHRM State Council. You can also catch Jim and Erin presenting on the Smart Stage on Sunday at 1:10 PM as they discuss “Five Tips to Navigate the SHRM Annual Conference.” I had a recent chat with them to learn a bit more about their journey to this weekend…

What does your role involve?

We help promote the conference and recruit volunteers to help run the conference.  In June, we will lead the volunteers and volunteer team leads to ensure we have a smooth, successful conference.

When did you start planning/working with SHRM staff?

We started meeting with SHRM in early 2016 to begin planning for 2017.  We attended the SHRM 2016 conference in Washington D.C. to being shadowing our roles as co-chairs and to help promote the NOLA location for SHRM 2017.

How many volunteer slots did you have to fill? How many volunteers?

We have about 750 volunteers and over 1,300 shifts!

What is the benefit to Louisiana SHRM members/HR professionals who volunteer to work at the conference?

There are great benefits to volunteering.  For every 6 hour shift that you work, you get to attend one day of the conference for free.  This is a wonderful opportunity for local and state professionals to attend the conference at a reduced cost, or even no cost to them, other than their time spent volunteering.  Professional development can be a very expensive cost to companies and to individuals so it is really a great opportunity for so many local professionals to be able to volunteer and attend the SHRM conference.

What do you want out-of-town visitors to experience when they are in New Orleans?

The culture, the food, and the people.  There is no other place in the world like New Orleans.  I hope that after spending the day at the conference, attendees will venture out into the city to enjoy our great restaurants and music.  They can bring their families as well and extend their stay to visit our excellent museums and the zoo.  NOLA has a lot to offer so I hope that everyone enjoys their conference here in the Big Easy!


If you’re attending the show you’ll be able to easily find the volunteer team members in their green shirts;  they’ll be your go-to-folks for assistance in finding your way around the Convention Center (“where is Room 346? I thought it was over here?”) and/or around town. Want to find a great local happy hour, a superb bowl of gumbo, or the closest Walgreen’s to pick up some aspirin and/or bandaids? They’ll know.

Enjoy your visit; we’re glad to have you here!

Candor in the Workplace #WorkHuman

There’s a new (ish) concept in the arena of employee feedback – Radical Candor. In the best selling book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, author Kim Scott (a former Google director and consultant) explains that radical candor encourages employees to directly confront issues with colleagues in a completely honest—yet respectful and compassionate—way.

I recently weighed in on the topic for the Baton Rouge Business Report along with the Director of Operations for a local law firm that has added it to their workplace/operational mix ; you can read the article here. (just please ignore the incredibly awkwardly staged photo. ugh).

I found it to be perfect timing for this article’s published date (last Thursday) since I’m hitting the road today for the WorkHuman Conference; 3rd year of the event and my 3rd time attending. I’ll also, along with my co-presenter Bill Boorman, be speaking at a Spotlight Session on the topic “How to Hire for a “Challenging” Culture.”

In many ways the word “culture” seems to have become yet another over-used buzzword in the business and HR sphere; toss the word “culture” into an article or a speaker submittal and you’ll garner lots of interest. But, cynicism aside, it really does all come down to culture.  The amorphous, ever-evolving, squishy, and somewhat-hard-to-articulate GLUE that connects employee-to-organization and connects employee-to-employee.

Candor in the workplace? –“In order for organizations to make a switch to a radical candor environment, they first must do the hard work of ensuring their organizational culture can sustain a style of working that requires employees to directly challenge each other, while ensuring those forthright conversations emanate from a place of truth and personal caring.” (so sayeth me in that Business Report article).

Hiring for a challenging culture? – “We’re fully aware that we can’t make-up our organizational culture and we also know that being false and inauthentic, while it may garner more applicants, leads to mismatched hiring. The true differentiator in talent acquisition and retention is being real, honest and truthful with both candidates and employees in order to provide them with an honest version of the actual working experience at your organization.” (so sayeth me for WorkHuman)


It’s sticky.

Who Loves Ya Baby! #nextchat

  1. Do YOU love HR? I do.

Well…maybe it’s more that I “like” HR. Perhaps it’s that I “have a REALLY strong attraction” for HR? Something. I dunno.

But look…if I didn’t like lovehave a really strong attraction’ for human resources there’s no way I could have done this gig as long as I have. I would have hung it up by about year 3; which was, let’s be frank, quite a few years ago.

Now I’m as quick as anyone to call out the foolishness and foibles of misguided or ill-informed HR practitioners. My blood gets to boiling when I hear tales of HR dropping the ball. I despise the humorless bureaucrats who use an HR Policy Manual as a shield or like to regularly employ the phrase “legal makes us do it.”

But those sorts of HR practitioners are fading away; I truly believe that. We are, as a collective body, more informed, more creative, more inquisitive and extraordinarily plugged into our respective businesses.

Yet, a bitter after-taste still lingers; akin to rancid coffee on one’s tongue.  We continue to battle misconceptions, stereotypes and, well, jokes.

A long-serving assistant personnel manager shared an office with his boss for 20 years. He was always puzzled by the fact that every time the boss was about to sign a letter he would slide open the top drawer of his desk, peer in, and then slide it shut before picking up his pen and appending his signature.
Eventually his boss retired and he was elevated to personnel manager. His curiosity could be contained no longer.
He slid open the drawer and there, stuck to the bottom was a piece of paper, blank except for the line: “2 Ns and one L.”

(hat tip to Mary Faulkner for the joke)

Certainly some of us are misunderstood. Most assuredly some of us are working for a CEO or Owner who views HR as either fluff (parties! picnics! cheer camp!) or a necessary evil (terminations! lawsuits! benefit administration!).

Some of us are just plain doing it wrong.

So let’s talk about it.

Join me for today’s SHRM #nextchat (3 PM ET) for a twitter chat we’re calling HR, Be Human. Be Awesome. (click through on that link for the questions we’ll be discussing).

Let’s debunk some myths, chat about what misconceptions drives us crazy, and celebrate all there is to like love have a really strong attraction to in the human resources profession.