Bewildered and Concerned
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I recently returned home from an HR industry conference bewildered and concerned about what is happening to these types of conferences and our opportunities to network and learn from peers. I have always valued the time I spend at conferences. I love meeting new people and connecting with individuals who work in the same industry as I – who want to better themselves – who care about Talent Management, as a whole. And I am one of those people – yes, I work for a vendor – but I care about HR and what is happening to our opportunities for learning.
What are Conferences For?
Conferences are for learning, for expanding our minds and revealing practices that work and processes that don’t. Sponsors/Vendors are there – in their booths or at their tables – waiting and wanting to share about their products and/or services. I submitted information about leading a session on retention and was selected to present along with a current HR practitioner, who has been a friend and mentor to me for many years – ever since I was a novice recruiter in healthcare – Jean Haskell, Director of HR at Hilmar Cheese. Having been an in-house Manager of Recruitment and Retention in a past life, I care a great deal about this topic. I want talent management leaders to care about it too – I want them to see beyond a speedy hire and know that the work they do is important – that they can make a difference in their employees’ work lives, which in turn affects the whole of their employees’ lives. And, ultimately lead to progress and success at their companies.
The Future of Talent Management is Shifting
Understanding the mindset of employees, whether they are baby boomers readying for retirement or millennials looking to become managers and leaders, is vital in understanding retention practices and efforts that will make a difference. Understanding that the job mix is shifting and skills need to shift in order to fill gaps is essential for companies who are striving for success today and beyond. Of course, I am happy to share about my company and products we sell, but like good content marketing, my purpose in leading a conference session is to educate and unite industry leaders, as well as learn from them. I was discouraged to see so many use their session time to sell their products – I mean really SELL their product. That is for booth time and follow-up calls.
As a Vendor Rep, Why does this upset me?
I guess because I was a practitioner and attended many conferences in that role that I tire of the sales shenanigans and seemingly unethical ways so many companies force feed demos on a captive conference audience. Practitioner Attendees are going to become extinct – conferences will be full of sponsor companies promoting to other vendor company reps – who are attendees. This practice has to change. I am there as a supplier – yes, but also as an educator, and an attendee who wants to learn. If I pay for a booth or a table, if I pay for a demo slot, if I pay for the opportunity to blatantly sell – then ok —- but ONLY ok if attendees and practitioners are made aware that they are about to be sold to – usually there is no early warning and a clever session title is merely a ploy. Though it seems incomprehensible to me – it happens, and often.
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This is a Great Industry
I want to be worthy to work in this industry – women and men who are keepers of ethical practices and representatives of their workforce – to take care of them. It hurts my heart to see them taken advantage of, to see them duped – as they so often are. And I don’t think I have to get past this – even if it is my job to share my company’s brand and products/services to the world. I just can’t take that advantage or do it in a manner that is a ruse or a big, fat lie. My HR heart won’t let me – it doesn’t allow me to snag the lowest hanging fruit or throw pitches where they are unexpected or undesired.
What do you think?
I’d love to hear from industry practitioners or advocates who have experienced sleazy sales tactics of late or perhaps you or your colleagues been duped into sitting in on a unexpected demo or sales presentation? What are your thoughts? Are you ready to buy? Or has this left a bad taste in your mouth? I am sure these nefarious practices are not reserved exclusively for the HR industry and HR Tech – other industries experience the same kind of slime, I am sure.
I want to be worthy – so I will do the work and continued research to be so.
by Rayanne Thorn