By KEVIN FLOOD
Managing Web Editor
NEW ORLEANS -- There's a big crowd here in the Big Easy: more than 10,000 human
resource professionals, nearly 800 exhibitors, and nearly 200 speakers--all
attending the Society for Human Resource Management's 56th-annual convention
Sunday was the opening day of the 3 ½-day event, and nowhere was the
action heavier than in Booth 2240, the convention home of Business & Legal
Reports, the company that operates HR.BLR.com and Compensation.BLR.com.
The newest member of BLR's Advisory Board, former SHRM President and CEO Michael
R. Losey, SPHR & CAE, greeted visitors and signed copies of his book, "Tomorrow's
HR Management: 48 Thought Leaders Call for Change." Losey also attracted
a number of his peers, including current SHRM President and CEO Susan R. Meisinger,
SPHR, who stopped by to chat with Losey and BLR Vice President John Brady.
In the course of the evening, BLR raffled away four free, autographed copies
of Losey's book. The winners were:
- Thomas Johnson, senior HR manager, HBR, Arlington, Virginia.
- Roxanne Weinberger, HR associate, Eaton Corp., Sarasota, Florida.
- John Vicik, director of HR, Health Resources Alliance, Oak Brook, Ill.
- Debra Gay, consultant, HRXHR, Chicago, Ill.
Earlier, in opening remarks to the convention, Meisinger reminded HR professionals
that just opening the business sections of their local newspapers shows how
greatly HR's role is expanding in corporate America. Topics like offshoring,
job creation, and corporate ethics dominate the news pages as well as boardroom
"One glance tells us these headlines are about people issues," Meisinger
Corporate governance has become particularly important, amid the ethics scandals
at Tyco, Enron, and other companies. "Companies are paying a lot more attention
to the way corporate board seats are filled," she said. Being a friend
of the CEO no longer guarantees a directorship; rather, companies increasingly
rely on their HR departments to conduct careful recruiting and screening of
board candidates, she added.
SHRM Board Chairman David B. Hutchins had some sobering news for the gathering:
In interviews with SHRM, top executives expressed doubts about HR's ability
to help pilot their organizations. "They have concerns as to whether we
are business leaders," he said.
"We need to take this feedback to heart," Hutchins said, explaining
that one way to do that is to embrace changes in business models. With today's
economy forcing businesses to change course frequently and with little warning,
it's important to have the capacity to react quickly and embrace change, he
said. "Change is difficult but absolutely essential," he said.
In addition, Hutchins said, the CEOs cited courage as one of the traits they
most desire in an HR director. One summed it up this way: "I want an HR
leader with guts."
Hutchins also had this advice for HR professionals: "Focusing on your
professional development may seem like something you can't afford right now.
In reality, the opposite is true."
At a news conference following the speeches, Meisinger said SHRM membership
had grown by 10,000 in the past year, making it the 15th consecutive year of
growth for the organization.
She also noted that HR professionals from 37 foreign countries were attending
the convention, making for the highest registration of non-U.S. convention goers
in SHRM's history.
Basketball star Magic Johnson had been advertised as one of the convention's
keynote speakers, but SHRM officials announced some bad news and good news about
that on Sunday. The bad news: Johnson had canceled. The good news: He was being
replaced by actor and activist Christopher Reeve.