Monday, July 11, 2011

SHRM conference Las Vegas

4 members of the MCI team traveled to Las Vegas to attend the Society for Human Resource Management conference. This guest blog by Kerri Blackstone gives some insights in to the experience and the key learnings:

SHRM 2011 deals MCI a great hand in Las Vegas!!
As soon as the tyres hit the tarmac in Las Vegas, we know that the Society for Human Resource Management Conference 2011 was going to have to live up to its location…hot and full of energy. Along with another 18 000 eager SHRM attendees, we make our way to the Las Vegas Conference Centre to the registration stand.
The atmosphere is palpable. The book shop is already bursting at the seams, with people lining up to get their copy of the latest editions on their HR topic of choice. The Starbucks queue is out the building and doesn’t ever seem to get shorter till the end of the fourth day.
Each day begins with a general session, when everybody gathers in a massive auditorium to listen to various SHRM executives about Human Resource trends. This is shortly followed by an hour address by some of the world’s leading minds, business leaders and activists.
Okay, readers, time to test you.
Question: What would you say is the demographic event that HR professionals say will have the biggest influences on the workplace in the next decade?
Answer: Baby Boomers will be retiring.
We like to keep our readers on their toes....
Question: Are HR professionals having more or less difficulty finding job candidates for high-level jobs in 2011?
Answer: More…perhaps due to new or enhanced skill requirements for those jobs.
We hear from Richard Branson about the importance of not second guessing your employees. The point he keeps driving home is that the most successful businesses start by looking for ways to make a difference or help people, not to make money. He explains the process of making your company a fun place to work and how this can become self-evolving.
The gem he shares is to implement workplace flexibility in a meaningful way. “Provide unpaid leave for important family and personal time so that people feel they're not a cog in a big machine,” he urges.
The ever active Tweeter and creator of the phenomenal Huffington post, which sold to AOL for $315 million, Arianna Huffington, is our main course on day two.
The key insights she shares with us are how HR can facilitate this trust -“The deep trust that tribes have.” This is the first step in your company embracing and using social media for good. Arianna explains that, “The Internet has grown up. It’s passed its teens. Now we can moderate our comments.”
Something that comes across strongly is her point about the wrong and right state of mind and state of being and how to shift both for greater personal and professional success.
One of my favourite pointers are her tips on getting older CEOs to embrace new technology. “Get their kids to teach them,” she says, deadpan.
Another great highlight is on the importance of sleep. A proud sleep crusader, Arianna recommends instituting a nap room. “I make an appointment with sleep,” she announces proudly. As with Branson, one of her crucial points is ‘doing good.’
Corporate social investment was a hot topic on this year’s SHRM menu.
Main course Day Three is the charismatic owner of the largest online shoe store, Zappos-Tony Hsieh. He is extremely generous and transparent, sharing what he and his team have found works best on hiring the right people to create the WOW Culture at Zappos. “Great companies spend time on culture,” he repeats several times.
He explains how these committable core values can be defined collaboratively over time. He also shares some of his quirky recruiting and interviewing tricks. One example is how he offers each recruit, after a five weeks of training, $2000 to quit. He says this separates those who believe in the Zappos brand and those who don’t buy into it. “Keep the 2 grand. I’ll save money and my brand in the long run.”
The most potent flavour of his talk is how to motivate employees to deliver WOW! customer service, which in turn helps to build the brand ‘Delivering Happiness.”
The grand finale is Michael J. Fox. What a humble man! He hasn’t lost his youthful charm, nor his wicked sense of humour. His ongoing struggle with Parkinson ’s disease, has carried him from acting to charity. His recipe for surviving the struggle with dignity and humour: “Don't play the result. Life isn't scripted. Life changes, change with it.”
He shares some of the lessons his mentors and role models taught him that all added spice and flexibility to his life.
And those are only the main courses. The strategy for our team of four is to split up for all the concurrent afternoon sessions. Divide and conquer.
Here are some of the gems from our sessions: We get the lowdown on trust by Randy G. Pennington, how to earn it, keep it and use it to deliver results. We’re reminded of what really causes mistrust. “Mistrust paints with a large roller, not a small brush!” Randy warns. “Without trust, there can be no co-operation between people, teams, departments, divisions. Without trust, each department will protect its own immediate interests, to its long-term detriment and the detriment of the entire system.” -W. Edwards Deming
Some of the big lessons from Joe Gerstand are how to leverage from cognitive diversity and that the greater diversity, the greater the variance in performance. This highlights for us the danger of group think.
This is best summed up by Hackman & Morris, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology “Groups often fail to outperform individuals because they prematurely move to consensus, with dissenting opinions being suppressed or dismissed.” and “If everyone is thinking the same thing, someone isn’t thinking at all.” -General George S. Patton.
James and Kelly Robbins is one talk worth writing home about (and a blog.) It is both an entertaining and practical session. Some of the highlights are the vast differences in what men and women value, the way we communicate, our problem-solving styles and the way we manage stress.
My favourite takeaway: “The way men sabotage their success with women at work: not taking time for care and consideration. The way women sabotage their success with men at work: taking things personally”
Dr. David Rock, who coined the term ‘NeuroLeadership’ and co-founded the NeuroLeadership Institute, announces that the US government has just revised the food pyramid - the diagram that's been with us for decades that is supposed to remind people how to eat well.
The model needed a revision, and the new version, called ChooseMyPlate, is a big improvement. David feeds our grey matter by sharing his Healthy Mind Platter for optimal brain matter. Kimberley Lynn, author of ‘How to give a Butt-Kicking Presentation’, unpacks her pantry of presentations tips: Our favourite quotes: “Only 15% of your success is due to your technical knowledge, 85% of success is attributable to your ability to express ideas, arouse enthusiasm, and lead people” -Dale Carnegie
For those of us who deal with nerves, here’s some great advice: “If you want to develop courage, do the thing you fear and keep on doing it until you have a record of successful experiences behind you. That is the quickest and surest way yet discovered to conquer fear.” -Dale Carnegie To say that we feel well fed is an understatement. The nourishment we received has revitalised our outlook on all the human elements in our own business and we’re planning to share the nutrients with everybody we work with.

Luxury brands

A guest blog from the MCI sales and marketing team:

Last week Natasha and Jenna attended an alumni “Business of Luxury” event. The panel discussion included Kevin Nicholls (Director of Sales and Marketing for Porsche Australia) Melinda Stewart (Finance Director for Louis Vuitton Oceania) and Dr Rebecca Huntely (Director of Ispos Mackay Research.) The event was held at the Porsche Centre in Sydney; the perfect location for a luxury event! Here are the key discussion points:

Dr Huntley said that when the GFC hit the media was flooded with articles saying that consumption and consumerism is over; however the research shows Australians still love luxury brands. Research also found that ‘the average Australian’ felt “strained” but was still spending. The focus of investments was on future gains and satisfaction: renovations, children’s education and personal wellbeing.

Interesting branding facts about Louis Vuitton:

- They never go on sale

- They own all their production factories

- They only sell through Louis Vuitton stores – to maintain control of the selling environment

- Every Louis Vuitton store has the same shop window. They run a centralised campaign so that you can visit any of their 457 stores and have the same “experience”

Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson called Porsche’s design team “the laziest in the world” for never changing the 911 design but as the company holds onto their classic designs they are constantly expanding their range to meet demands. The automotive industry, like many others in Australia, has a finite number of buyers and only a certain number can afford the luxury version of that good – in this case Porsche.

Branding facts and ideas from Porsche:

- Consistency is very important to the brand – all showrooms have the exact same lights, floor tiles and paint colour

- Less than 100,000 Porsches are sold worldwide in one year. That is as many cars as Ford produces in a week. For small players in any market your focus needs to remain on having personal relationships with your customers. Stay true to your core values.

Kevin noted that marketers tend to group people because it is easier and cheaper than breaking them down further or putting the effort in. In today’s world people want a personal relationship – we need to remember this all the time.

Online purchasing has been a hot topic in recent months and Dr Huntley explained that consumers are now well informed, and they know their facts and figures and comparisons. Now more than ever we need to ensure that when we meet our customer for the first time we build a quality relationship, because that is what will make the difference.

Melinda ended off by saying that no brand is resilient to changing customers and environments. Even luxury, timeless brands cannot stop evolving. You need to constantly re-evaluate your product and your strategy – and train your staff.