I have great opportunities to attend conferences both near and far from my home and my office and was lucky (pun intended) to fly to Las Vegas in April for a HRIS conference, and I took a few colleagues with me. Plus I had some alone time, and added on a few days for some R&R.
Some lessons learned, and maybe worth remembering when attending a conference, or perhaps to use while at work….
- Plan. Take time to plan out your agenda – whether for a conference, for a meeting, or for your work year. HR needs to think forward and become proactive. We have a continued rep of being very administrative and reactive, when we might possibly more positively affect the workforce when thinking and acting proactively. And sometimes, the best laid plans don’t work out, so gather a colleague, and simply,
- Talk. My coworker & I were in a particularly painful, boring session. I convinced him we needed to take a walk. And we proceeded to the pool area, in our business casual attire. I then pressured him into taking of his shoes and socks and just dipping his toes in the water. And we had a conversation. We articulated our perspectives about HR, about the conference. We coached one another. And quite possibly enhanced our work relationship through that conversation. Which leads me to the opposite of my first bullet point. Sometimes, you just have to
- Be spontaneous. Go with the moment. It’s Vegas. Get out there. Invite conversations with (sane) people. I talked with more one-on-one with conference attendees by striking up a conversation with them while waiting in line – at registration, for the elevator, at the pool, and at the lunch table. And gathered a lot of valuable information. And yes, I AM an introvert. Sometimes someone just needs to break the ice. Good conversation and networking will happen! To do this, you must
- Make eye contact. With the person standing next to you in line, with the hotel staff, with your server. Find out your server’s name, and use it. Smile. BTW, if you get extraordinary service, anywhere, leave your HR business card with the payment, and a short note. “Thanks for the extraordinary service. You were great today!” You may never know how meaningful that was to someone, but isn’t it a great surprise when you are complimented seemingly out of the blue? Pay it forward!
- Network and never turn down the opportunity to connect with an old friend, colleague, acquaintance, a LinkedIn connection, or meet a new contact. Networking is powerful, and connecting with others through work, school, conferences, & social media may not seem important, but it can add value to you, for you, and for others you serve. I met a race car driver and I got to see college friends I haven’t seen in 30 years. I was very blessed on this trip – I feel richer for having made the time to connect.
Hmmm, these all sound a lot like coaching tips when interviewing candidates. Don’t they?
- Plan before the interview – that’s being proactive. Read the resume and application, and plan the questions prior to the interview. Be prepared – candidates can tell if you are not. Sometimes, you need to engage the interviewee through
- Talk. Interviewers should not simply read questions off a page and record answers. Interviewers will succeed by engaging the interviewee and making the interview seem more like a conversation. Engage your team to greet the candidate & talk informally when they arrive. (Don’t forget to get your team’s feedback afterward.) And remember it is ok to somewhat
- Be Spontaneous. HR professionals do recommend using the same questions for all interviews for a position; however, there are times that an answer calls for spontaneity by asking a follow up question. Or waiting, silently, for the candidate to form an answer. And we HR professionals always recommend using
- Eye contact. We observe eye contact from the candidates. We need to be sure we are practicing what we preach. Not in a stare down, but while having a meaningful conversation, er, I mean interview.
- Network. Be sure to find out what the candidate knows about your company. Understand and engage them to determine how well they network! And perhaps they are sitting in the candidate seat because an awesome HR professional (like you) left their card for a great customer servant. How cool would that be?
About the Author: Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution. She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University. She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization. She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job. She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn. She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.