Behind the Front Lines at SHRM, Las Vegas: An Overview of the Weekend

NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles over the next few days from Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler, two of the recruiting industry’s most well-respected figures, who are attending SHRM’s Annual Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas this week. They will be providing exclusive coverage of the conference for the Electronic Recruiting Exchange, which we will be presenting to our subscribers in a series of supplemental emails. The attention of the HR world shifts to Las Vegas this week where the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has convened its 52nd Annual Conference and Exposition. (Details and press coverage can be found at 12,000 paid attendees (not counting the hundreds of speakers and the vendors supporting 1100 booths) began converging on the Hilton hotel and LV Convention Center on Friday. I also arrived Friday to get a jump on meetings and network opportunities but found a few distractions like the poker rooms at the Mirage. Saturday, I was able to map out the booths I wanted to visit, programs I wanted to attend and the room where Mark and I would be holding forth ourselves. Mike Losey, SHRM’s CEO, is retiring at the end of this year and a party was held Saturday evening to celebrate his accomplishments and toast his unique style. SHRM will have grown from 50,000 to 150,000 members, and is driving many of the changes taking place in the human resource profession. After half a dozen committee meetings Sunday morning and an opening keynote speech by Archbishop Desmond Tutu (we think we have problems!), 12,000 people flowed through several acres of booths and the fun began:

  • Nearly every employment system, tool, or service is displaying its wares, giving demos, or generally trying to gain some visibility and attention. We’ve advised several corporations considering new systems to send a review team to Vegas and scout the products. It took nearly three hours with a digital recorder to just walk the aisles and “mark” the products and services we wanted to return and review. We’ll try to give a little tour in the next two days.
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  • In between, we attended a press conference at 5 p.m. About 70 credentialed reporters were in attendance, many from other countries. (We weren’t legit but no one threw us out.) Among the announcements:
    1. SHRM is filing suit this week along with the Chambers of Commerce and other business groups to get an injunction against the Department of Labor. The Administration it seems is bent on letting each state tap their unemployment insurance resources for other services. The implications are less likely to have an impact in the short term but, eventually, it will create higher business risks in some states.
    2. A just completed retention study (done by the SHRM Foundation) was reviewed and, while not surprising, confirmed what we all know?that the percentage of companies reporting increasing voluntary terminations is rising (more churning). The two biggest reported reasons for leaving: money and challenge. “Number three” reason wasn’t even close. Kind of like the doctor confirming what you already knew when she tells you that you have the flu. The good news is that 87% of companies have some kind of exit data collection process. The bad news is that only half of these companies act on what they learn. What do you do? (The new study can be ordered through the SHRM website.)
  • The Employment Center at this year’s annual conference (sponsored by JWT Specialized Communications) is free. The resume and job listing databases can be accessed without attending the conference. For more information on registering for this service, visit

Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler are co-authors of CareerXroads and are internationally recognized as educators, consultants and practitioners. Learn more at


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