A Word of Thanks

This week a group of HR/staffing professionals ó consisting of in-house staff, consultants and contractors; third-party recruiters; and vendors of recruiting products ó will meet for three days in Atlanta for ERE’s recruiting conference, ER Expo 2002 East. This was not an unusual occurrence two years ago. You could find sold-out conferences on the use of crystals and herbal-biodegradable recruiting back then. Everyone seemed to have money to spend and there were more than enough organizations looking to help the community to spend that money, for good purposes or not. I will admit, it was a time of exuberance and excess. Lost in the mix were gatherings and conferences of weight and merit. These were the professional gatherings with the intent of exchanging information regarding tools, techniques, new policies, and leading-edge procedures. It was not a difficult decision to make, whether or not to attend; everybody was attending. Not being seen was the risk. These were also occasions for great networking. Business cards were exchanged with greater frequency than the correct time or vendor-provided, logo-embossed gizmos. But that was then, and this is now. The folks at ERE have decided to hold their conference at a time when the faint of heart would have hesitated or deferred until better times. I think we all owe them a word of gratitude for “keeping it going” despite the realities of the current economic situation. The survival of the HR/staffing profession requires that we don’t go looking for a rock under which to hide while we hope for the “better days” to return. For those who seek to play it safe during difficult times will not find safety ó but only the reinforcement of impotence and redundancy. There are, unfortunately, economic realities that preclude many from attending. But to opt not to participate merely because it would be a “hard sell” is not necessarily a good reason. The value of such gatherings goes not diminish with the times. Agreed, as bad as this recession has been on the economy in general, it has been especially devastating to the community in which we all dwell and seek to make our livelihood. The news of yet another corporate reduction of total headcount by 3%, 5%, or 10% by any company makes the headlines and rocks an already rocky stock market. But we in the business all know of recruiting organizations that have sustained losses of 50%, 75%, or greater. Organizations that occupied whole buildings now find themselves with ample room on a single floor, and groups that were once crammed on a single floor two years ago can be found in the corner, behind the copier room down the hall from the exit ó just in case. We have fallen from grace from those heady days of the mid and late 1990s. We have begun to feel that there are only two kinds of HR/staffing professionals: those who have been laid off and those who fear they are next. Not a good time to be out there alone. Conferences will not change our economic reality. But they do reinforce for us that what we do has a purpose, as well as merit and importance. They also give us the opportunity to spend a few days sharing views and opinions with others of our ilk who see staffing as something more than a corporate hobby. It is in the knowledge shared and the courage garnered by such gatherings that the ability for the industry to recover lies. We need to discover our “voice” in order to speak out in much the same way the medical, legal, and other professionals do. All too often we seem to use our vehicles to merely talk amongst ourselves. To discuss, repeat, and revisit, once again, the same topics that we have been discussing since we first entered the industry ó and that we speak of, yet again, at our retirement parties. I am looking forward to spending three days with peers from all aspects of the business who have “planted their flags” and intend to stay and see this bleak and dismal period through to the end ó to be present, involved, and informed on the newest ideas and just plain fun ways of doing business. So to David Master, Jim Dalton, and the ERE organization, I say thank you. Not just for giving me an excuse to go to Atlanta (fun city) for a few days, but for providing me with the opportunity to spend a few days surrounded by HR/staffing professionals, and not those who preach their “new ideas” on how to do business without a relevant and engaged HR/staffing community within their organization. The shame of it is not that they think this way; the shame of it is we have allowed them to think they are right. I hope to learn new ideas. But more importantly I hope to reinforce and reestablish my commitment to the belief that there are far too many good people in this community for it not to finally discover its voice and establish its purpose and viability in a cynical and short-sighted business community. If nothing else, there should be enough veterans from the previous “recruiting recessions” to remind us that this downtime, too, shall pass ó when and how will in part be the result of the work we do now. Tomorrow will not get better all by itself. We have to work together to make it happen. Accept the short-changed budgets and limitations of the times. But whenever possible, get out and go to these kinds of gatherings. Plot, plan, and connive with your peers. Also, have fun every now and then. Have a great day recruiting! Hope to see you at the conference.

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Ken Gaffey (kengaffey@comcast.net) is currently an employee of CPS Personal Services (www.cps.ca.gov) and has been involved in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration project since its inception. Prior to this National Security project Ken was an independent human resources and staffing consultant with an extensive career of diversified human resources and staffing experience in the high-tech, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His past clients include Hewlett Packard, First Data Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Rational Software, Ericsson, Astra Pharmaceutical, G&D Engineering, and other national and international industry leaders. In addition to contributing articles and book reviews to publications like ERE, Monster.com, AIRS, HR Today, and the International Recruiters Newsletter, Ken is a speaker at national and international conferences, training seminars, and other staffing industry events. Ken is a Boston native and has lived in the greater Boston area most of his life. Ken attended the University of South Carolina and was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.


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