Every time I walk into the Exhibition Hall at a conference, the theme song from The Jeffersons begins to play in my head. Flashy, fabulous booths from hundreds, sometimes thousands of vendors looking to show and share the latest and greatest they have to offer. This, in my estimation, often has the effect of making people want to trade in their ‘tired old rags’ (literally, when you think of the uniform & branded apparel vendors) and move on up to swankier, new duds.
But beyond the great booths, sparkling salespeople, and the thousands & thousands of dollars of swag given away each conference, there’s a business need… sometimes, companies do legitimately need to start “movin’ on up” to a new program, platform, partner, or supplier when it comes to the way they do business. The trick is… how do you know? How do you know when it makes sense to hold off a little while longer or when it’s time to take the plunge? Are conferences the right place to make those kinds of decisions; or does the pomp, circumstance, and flash blind business buyers?
What if you’re not looking to make a change; should the Exhibition Hall be avoided or is there still value to making that time investment beyond scoring possibilities to win an iPad, fun plushies, always valued post-it notes, and free USB drives? There was a lot going on with vendors at #SHRM12, from Target’s reward program to talking with TheLadders about a wider-release of their products & interesting insights their extensive Candidate Research has uncovered about the your labor pool. Dice had a lot to share with HR Professionals looking to understand the value of a defined Digital Strategy – aka a social networking presence – for their recruiting programs… and they’ve got their own programs to help businesses get into the groove. At the end of the day, there are a lot of options & a lot of ways to create, innovate, and be more… more than what you currently have been to your organization. Maybe where you are isn’t bad; maybe it’s just getting ideas that can take you from good to great... but you won’t know if you don’t look, right?
To me, SHRM really kicks off conference season with a bang. It’s not usually the first I’ve been to; but it’s quite often the first BIG conference I attend – so, coming out of it, I personally like to do an assessment of the vendors I’ve visited, the systems/partners I currently have and create a go-forward strategy. I have a system – it looks something like this:
1) Assess systems, programs, and current partnerships. Conduct a mini – “GAP analysis;” you know, the “Where are we?” vs the “Where do we want to be?” and “Can we get there with this process/set-up?” questions we all need to ask.
2) Check current contract statuses. Even if you’re not up for renewal or appear to be “locked-in” with a current vendor – if there’s a gap that needs to be filled in your program? That vendor/partner needs to help you figure out how to fill it in your existing relationship; so still might be worth the trip to their booth.
3) Create a list of “what if” scenarios that you’d like to see your department/function be able to accomplish. This might be establishing a defined employer brand, finding a way to connect your employees together in a more collaborative environment, better succession planning – whatever it is, list it out. THIS? Is your roadmap to conversations, in my opinion, with people at conferences.
4) Go with the intention to learn, not necessarily buy. See and hear what others are doing to tackle the things on your roadmap list. Get a feel for where the existing market is currently at – are their products fully functional or do you hear a lot of, “In the next release…” or “We’re working on…” – sometimes that means you can lock into what will be a fantastic product at a stellar price; but sometimes it means you might want to wait for the next release for the kinks to be worked out. Give yourself time to think about it.
5) Set follow-up meetings with those whom show an active interest in working with you … on your terms. Obviously, the codicil to this is that you have realistic terms; but I personally will pass on vendors who do the “this is how it is” speech with me. If you don’t need my business enough to learn how I need a program or product to work for me, or limitations for myself/my customers? I tend to think there’s another provider out there who does; and so I tend to walk away. But, even if you do decide that there’s just one provider out there that can do what you need done; make sure they fully understand the terms of what you’re working with before you sign on the dotted line.
These are some tools and tricks that help me when I’m doing business in the Exhibition Hall; my guess is that each one of the members of our show tonight will come at this a little differently. I don’t want to spoil the fun and share all the excitement coming out of #SHRM12’s show too early… so, be sure to tune in tonight to hear all about it -we’re talking with special guests & #ILSHRM #TalentNet Keynoters Dwane Lay & Trish McFarlane at 7-8p ET | 6-7p CT | 4-5p PT. You can listen in here:
Here’s the questions for today’s discussion:
Q1. What are some signs that it’s time to reassess your current #HR or #Recruiting Technology/Programs? #TalentNet
Q2: Who should be involved in the process of selecting a new technology, tool, or vendor when it comes to #HR & #Recruiting? #TalentNet
Q3: What are some of the tools that you’ve recently seen (at #SHRM12) for example that got you really jazzed & why? #TalentNet
Q4: How do you get the most out of a vendor relationship when the product you originally purchased no longer suits your needs? #TalentNet
Q5: How do the pomp & circumstance/showy displays influence your buying decisions when it comes to #HRTech & #Recruiting tools? #TalentNet