The 1987 Personnel Technology Conference #HRTechConf

Imagine, if you will, that the HR Tech Conference had not held its inaugural event 20 years ago but had, instead, started up thirty years ago in 1987. 

I don’t know about y’all but I was working in an office in 1987; a recruitment agency to be exact. Our fanciest “technology” consisted of the ability to transfer our phones from our suburban branch office to the downtown Milwaukee HQ office when we were going to have a meeting or whatever. This was, to our minds, the most magical thing ever!  And, somehow, we always needed to transfer the phones every Friday about 3pm. Coincidental that this was also when we locked the doors and mixed cocktails like the gang at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce? Maybe. 

Oh we had some other technology at our disposal; a green screen DOS database that served as our system of record for client information; candidate information was saved via paper resumes and note cards with cryptic codes and abbreviations. We had a very expensive and newfangled fax machine that churned out an endless cascade of shiny paper and necessitated a scissors be nearby to cut the pages apart.  Job orders were handwritten (triplicate; carbon paper) and stored in a filing cabinet once a candidate was placed. Invoicing after that placement was done via mail…US mail. With stamps and everything.  

So what would the Personnel Technology Conference have been like in 1987? What would the vendors have been selling? Floppy disks? Bigger and better fax machines? Mechanical pencils? 

Some of the slogans and marketing messages we hear today could just have easily been uttered to an HR Gal/Guy in 1987:

  • “this will solve all your problems”
  • “we’re changing the way you work”
  • “transformation”

Oh…and by the way? It may be incredibly unhip and tragically uncool to admit it but MY Human Resources team still sends and receives faxes every day; doctor’s offices, benefits providers, government agencies and financial institutions and lenders.  Every day.  #Flashback 1987 

Women in HR Technology #HRTechConf #nextchat

Today is the start of the HR Technology Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas; it’s the 20th annual event and we’re kicking off with the 2nd Annual Women in HR Tech pre-conference event today. Sessions include:

and many more.

The blended topics at the intersection of gender, technology and workplace inclusion make regular headlines and they’re important conversations. Yet, for many HR practitioners who either don’t work in tech or live here with me in “flyover country” the discussions are seen as much ado about nothing. Admittedly, I’m not basing that opinion on anything other than my own anecdotal experiences. To wit: within the last few months I spoke to two separate HR audiences, a thousand miles apart, and when I asked these several hundred HR practitioners/leaders who had heard of James Damore’s “google manifesto” the vast majority were unfamiliar. Which made me sad. This is important for human resources leaders to discuss and it’s not just about “women in tech;” there are bigger issues surrounding gender inclusion and ongoing stereotypes in any workplace/industry.

So yeah…I’m quite thrilled that for the second year the team the #HRTechConf is providing an opportunity for us to have these conversations.

In addition, SHRM will be running this week’s #nextchat live from the conference; join Conference presenter Cecile Alper-Leroux @cecilehcm; and members of the HR Tech Insiders Blogger Team: Dawn Burke @DawnHBurke, Heather Bussing @HeatherBussing, Heather Kinzie @HeatherKinzie, Jennifer Payne @JennyJensHR, (and me!) as we discuss “Women in HR Tech” live on the twitterz at 3 PM/ET on Wednesday (tomorrow).

p.s. check out this great post “Women and Tech – The Pace of Change” from Heather Bussing.


image: Wikipedia: About 8,000 women worked in Bletchley Park, the central site for British cryptanalysts during World War II. Women constituted roughly 75% of the workforce there

Sexy HR: The Stuff My Mother Never Told Me

Some of my friends think I have one of the most fascinating jobs ever as the HR leader at a casino; gambling! free drinks! the-fresh-scent-of-crisp-dollar-bills! B-girls! Craps on demand!

Now I admit I totally have the best stories from my life living HR on steroids; the real-dealio that is definitely not for the faint of heart. Yet, let me point out, I also work in one of the most regulated industries imaginable; massive oversight from local jurisdictions, IRS, state gaming regulators, and auditors of every stripe. We make sure we account for every person that passes through our turnstiles and every penny that lands in our slot machines. We’re also damn good at that accounting stuff. I, personally, have never had to attest to and sign more stuff with name-rank-serial-number. We take this accountability seriously.

Not totally new to me of course; this is my second casino gig and my third in the gaming industry. My theory is that if I can ever manage to work for a liquor distributor and a cigarette company (I did interview with one back in the day) I’ll have all the major vices covered. Well…except for one.

I would still need to work in the sex industry to gain the HR hat trick. Bow chicka-wah-wah and all that. And, I’m telling you right now, I am incredibly curious about what that that day-to-day would entail. Because, of course, these people exist.

Playboy has a CHRO; her name is Kendice Briggs. (She started her HR career in banking just like me. I could have this job!). According to her LinkedIn profile she handles all the typical HR stuff like comp, benefits and recruitment.  She also, bless her heart, oversees payroll. I sure wish that when I get to work in a really sexy industry I get to put payroll where it belongs…in finance.

The HR leader at Adam & Eve (#1 Adult Toy Superstore) has been with the company since 2014; according to her LinkedIn profile she’s very good at employee relations, recruiting and HR policies. (note: what I wouldn’t give to read that employee policy manual….). As for the recruitment bit I dunno; they only accept faxed resumes or walk-in applicants (North Carolina y’all!) or encourage applicants to “Cut and Paste your resume in to the body of an email.”  That might work I guess; they probably want to discourage photos, selfies, and dudes sending their resumes wrapped in rolls of paper towel………

Empire Labs, “the worldwide leader in do-it-yourself penis casting kits,” does not have an HR leader. Then again, it appears they only have five employees. And these five employees, based on my internet sleuthing, all appear to be male and approximately 25 years old.  They’re too young to appreciate the need to have an HR lady on staff but they’ll learn.

A few months ago I hung out for the first of several times with the super cool HR Manager of three (not 1…3!!) strip clubs here in south Louisiana. If you’ve visited New Orleans and were in search of either a watered down/ridiculously expensive drink or a lap dance, chances are you wandered into one of her establishments. Oh hell y’all….you think my HR stories are good? She even made me blush.

Look…we all take for granted that hospitals, insurance companies and manufacturers have HR departments filled with soulless bureaucrats who process benefit enrollments, deal with employee relations issues and trot up-and-down the hallways in their nice-little-HR-suits.

But imagine running an HR department in the porn industry. What are those worker’s compensation renewal meetings like? Think about the annual strategic planning meeting at a dildo making company. What sort of 2018 budget dollars does one set aside for employee engagement activities? Are there regular planned team building activities after the crew shuts down the injection-molding machine for the day? What about compensation and pay structure? Piece meal for every plastic penis that rolls of the conveyor belt or is there base pay with some other sort of variable or incentive?

These are the things that keep me up at night.

Sexy HR. The sort my mother never told me about.