HR News & Trends, Recruiting and Staffing

SHRM Atlanta Wisdom: What You Learn When You’re All Vendored Out

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I’m all vendored out.

No offense to the fine companies I’ve worked with, am working with or have yet to work with. I appreciate you all, and of course want to continue working with you all.

That’s what we get when we’re at the big SHRM show in Atlanta, though, working the expo floor with us all hawking our wares and giving away schwag off all kinds (but not enough kiddie kinds for my B-hive — take note my HR supplier brothers and sisters).

What you learn from impromptu conversations

Or, while I’m sitting in the press room working away, I hear the HR vendors and HR industry luminaries doing their press junkets with journalists and with my social media hippie friends, the industry’s social influencers. I hear “our product this” and “our service that” and “according to our research” that helps to sell those products and services. (I just overheard two execs in suits talking with an industry influencer friend of mine — “So, I followed along your Twitters and your blogging and here we are to talk about the HR people.”

Here we are. Indeed. That’s show business. Again, I appreciate you all.

But what I long for more than ever when I come this these conferences are the impromptu conversations with HR and recruiting practitioners, the “trench” folk whose world of work realities enlighten as well as confound most of us who cover and work in the greater HR industry.

At the Expo Hall lunch on Monday I plopped down and immediately began talking with two nice ladies who worked for a midsize insurance company in the Midwest. Initially they were wary of me, with me wearing my SocialEars shirt, but they warmed up quickly when they knew I wasn’t pitching them anything (at least not directly, right?).

The conversation moved into recruitment territory and we talked about how difficult it was to compete for IT talent in their market, especially for Ruby on Rails pros and other HTML5 developers according to one of the ladies, their head of recruiting.

Don’t be surprised by the real-world view

We talked about how their candidates get poached away for more glamorous tech development work — note the work here, not the money — although they do struggle with putting competitive offers together as well. This means they hire contractors and they outsource some of the development work to outside agencies, just to keep up with their IT workload.

Their own glamorous work they said with a wink and a smile.

What recruitment products do you use to source and short list your candidates?” I asked.

The recruiting manager shook her head. “None. We use headhunters for all our critical, hard-to-fill positions.”

“You mean you don’t use any recruiting technology to source and screen? Social media? Job boards?”

“None.”

“Why?”

“Because it doesn’t really work for us. We need headhunters to do it for us.”

Wow. Headhunters. Contingent recruiters. Third-party recruiters. Oh my. Who said they were dead? And there we were, sitting on the SHRM expo floor with hundreds and hundreds of vendors not more than 50 feet away with a good clip of those recruiting technology firms.

All vendored out with a human touch to boot. Ironic? Maybe. You be the judge, my brothers and sisters. You be the judge.

You can find more from Kevin Grossman on his Marcom HRsay blog.

Kevin W. Grossman has held multiple leadership positions in the human resource and recruiting marketplace, B2B and consumer technology marketplace and higher education for the past 25 years. He's a marketing strategist, HR industry evangelist, online community developer, entrepreneur, analyst, advisor, manager, philanthropist and writer. He is currently the Director of Content Development for Peoplefluent,, the leading provider of talent management solutions designed to support the entire workforce. Contact him at kevin@reach-west.com .