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SHRM steps up to the plate with April conference

One of the top human resource (HR) experts in the country, Susan Meisinger, will be the keynote speaker for the upcoming Mississippi Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference April 24-26 at the Jackson Marriott.

Meisinger, president and CEO of the SHRM, which has 200,000 members across the country, is a former Deputy Under Secretary for Employment Standards Administration (ESA) in the U.S. Department of Labor. Meisinger also served as special legal counsel for the Associated Builders and Contractors in Washington, D.C. She frequently comments in the national media as an expert on workplace and business issues.

Meisinger says it’s largely acknowledged that the workforce and competitive market environment of tomorrow will hold little resemblance to what we have today.

“While we do not know for sure what is ahead, we can plan for what may happen,” she says. “Identifying possibilities and what organizations will need to do to thrive in each scenario puts the power in the hands of the HR professional to prepare for the future and lead their organization to continued success.”

Some factors that may influence the labor pool include the effects of retiring Baby Boomers, outsourcing or offshoring jobs, immigration policies and technology that change the need for workers.

“The structure of organizations will also influence the workplace,” Meisinger said. “Some methods may focus on a strict hierarchy with strong division between management levels while others may be more flat and provide more autonomy and flexibility to the individual. These factors could also influence tenure, loyalty, training practices and accountability.”

Other speakers at the conference include John Daniel, executive vice president and head of human resources at Regions Financial Corporation, and David Morris, Morris & McDaniel, a leading designer of personnel selection tests that offer prospective employers valuable insights into the suitability of job candidates.

Danny Avery, who is chair of the SHRM State Council, said there are good reasons for anyone involved with HR to attend the conference because it is the one place and time of the year to get virtually unlimited information about what is going on in HR management.

“There are also opportunities to network with other HR practitioners all across the state,” Avery said. “There are great keynote speakers as well as information breakout speakers throughout the conference.”

Pat Whitlock, who is chairing the registration committee for the state conference, said there are several reasons human resource professionals should consider attending.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to stay abreast of what is going on in the world of human resources,” Whitlock said. “Since the capital area chapter is sponsoring the conference this year, and we have the new Mississippi Braves baseball team, we are using baseball as the theme and nexus for our conference: HR steps up to the plate with the courage to swing for the fences. Using the whole baseball theme, we have divided the conference sessions so they are appropriate for any HR professionals whether they are just getting started, or someone like myself who has been in it for 20 years.”

The conference is geared towards professional development, including information on the legal aspects of what is required to remain compliant. There will also be suggestions to help senior managers from a strategic standpoint.

“Another reason to attend is the invaluable networking opportunities that are presented from having HR practitioners from all over the state present,” Whitlock said. “Sometimes you think you are out on the island all by yourself. You may find someone in Hattiesburg is having the same problem, but approaching it from a different standpoint. The same thing is true for someone from Tupelo or Starkville. It doesn’t matter where you are. In HR, you are still dealing with the same issues.”

In addition to informal networking during breaks and meals, there are also brainstorming sessions and question and answer portions of break out sessions.

The extra layer of professional development may come in particularly handy in parts of the state that are seeing major problems with workforce availability after many workers left the state after Katrina.

“We need HR skills more than ever after Katrina,” Whitlock said. “If you look at the aftermath of Katrina, it is not just workforce issues but we are also dealing with the emotional issues that snowball from a catastrophe like Katrina. You have families breaking up. You have loss of life. HR provides for the whole gamut of employee relations.”

Some companies are facing the demands of producing the same amount of work with a decreased workforce. That means considering the options. It is best to pay overtime for the workers you have? Hire new workers? Or bring in contract employees?

Whitlock said there is increasing recognition of the importance of HR.

“I think HR in the past two years has really emerged as one of the partners at the table with strategic leaders,” she said. “HR’s role is essential.”

Rod Olps, an independent benefits consultant and president of the high-tech company NetworkStreaming, said senior-level HR managers are so busy that they can’t attend many conferences such as this.

“It is a great opportunity once a year to network, particularly with senior level people throughout the state in the HR world,” Olps said. “It is really the only opportunity you have to do that. Everyone is very busy, and few conferences are worth the investment of time for senior level HR managers.

A lot of junior-level HR professionals have local organizations where they can interact. But senior-level HR managers don’t have that many venues challenging and strategic enough to make it worth their while to attend.”

Olps will be making a presentation at the conference that will be a strategic overview and application of management principles to employee benefits. Only so much of the cost of benefits can be transferred to employees. Olps will be giving advice on how to manage medical costs wisely to get the maximum benefit. He also plans to touch on the application of HR to small businesses.

Another speaker, Shelly Prochaska, regional manager for SHRM, will be discussing HR ethics and career development for HR professionals.

“Doing the ‘right’ thing as an HR professional is sometimes easier said than done in today’s corporate environment,” Prochaska said. “But, no matter how tough it is, HR must rise to the challenge. There is simply too much at stake to do otherwise. From establishing guiding principles to devising systems for reporting and investigation to sometimes simply just standing up for what’s right, HR professionals have a critical role to play in creating ethical cultures within their organizations. Learn why HR cannot afford to remain silent and what HR leaders should do to help their organizations make sound, ethical decisions.”

Participants in the conference with professional certifications can get credit towards re-certification. Types of certification include Professional Human Resources (PHR) and Senior Professional HR (SPHR).

Attendees do not have to be a member of SHRM to attend. The conference is open to any HR professional. For registration help or questions, contact Whitlock at (601) 605-8722 or send an email to pwhitlock1@jam.rr.com. More information about the conference including a schedule can be found at www.cahra.com.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

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