SHRM Orlando Day 4: A Few Final Words From a Former First Lady

As the Society for Human Resource Management’s 66th annual Conference & Exhibition winds down in Orlando, here are some thoughts, reflections and insights from the better part of a week spent in hot and humid weather than is part and parcel of June in central Florida.

Day 4 speaker: Laura Bush

They did a flip-flop this year, with former First Lady Laura Bush speaking at the last general session of the SHRM conference instead at the kick-off keynote as former First Lady Hillary Clinton did last year in Chicago.

The big difference, of course, was that Laura Bush let the media in to hear her speak, while Hillary Clinton did not. Make of that what you will.

In both cases, what the former First Ladies had to say was no big deal and hardly worth the effort of banning anyone from being able to hear it.

SHRM2014Laura Bush gave a warm and gentle speech where she updated the SHRM audience on what was going on with her family, gave some insight into life in the White House (including poking fun at the silly things about her family in the various tabloid publications you find in the supermarket check-out aisle), and the causes she continues to champion today, including literacy.

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As the bio of her on the SHRM conference website put it:

Former First Lady of the United States Laura Bush, is an advocate for literacy, education and women’s rights. Mrs. Bush pursues her work on global health care innovations and empowering women in emerging democracies, and is a leading voice for spreading freedom and promoting human rights across the globe. As First Lady, Mrs. Bush advocated the importance of literacy and education to advance opportunity for America’s young people and to foster healthy families and communities. Mrs. Bush currently serves as the Chair of the Women’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute.”

She made a particular point of opening her talk by personally thanking the human resource professionals gathered here in Orlando for all they do, noting that “it is no easy task … owning the talent management process.” She right, of course, and it was nice to see a general session presenter speak directly, and more than in just passing reference, to the many thousands of HR pros who could use more than just a token acknowledgment.

Mrs. Bush also sat down with SHRM CEO Hank Jackson for a short Q&A session, and when asked by Jackson about her management philosophy, she said it was simply “to treat people with dignity and respect.” Overall, it was a little look inside life at the White House mixed with some reflections on what drives Laura Bush today. Not a bad keynote to end the conference on.

Other things worth mentioning from SHRM Orlando

  • I wish I could get to more sessions besides the keynotes. I’m always so busy at the SHRM annual conference that I end up missing a lot of great speakers that I really would love to hear. I ended up missing presentations from TLNT contributors like Tim Sackett, Michelle Smith, Steve Browne and many others, and I really regret that. Next year, I need to do a better job getting to some of them.
  • The HR certification controversy isn’t going away anytime soon. The flap between SHRM and the HR Certification Institute, with SHRM now offering their own certification instead of what HR pros had traditionally gotten from HRCI, is not going to fade in the near future. Although HRCI leaders said they were not welcome at the Orlando conference, SHRM’s Elissa O’Brien, vice president of membership, said Wednesday that, “HRCI was never barred from Annual Conference – I’m not sure how that rumor got started. In fact, several members of HRCI leadership and Board were in attendance.” Still, HRCI’s leadership met with the media during the four days of the conference at another hotel near the convention center, and, held a well-attended event Monday night at EPCOT. Plus, HR pros seems generally confused (and in many cases, frustrated) about SHRM’s new certification, and, many still have a great allegiance to the HRCI process and the PHR, SPHR, and GPHR‘s they have so much invested in. As much as SHRM wants their new certification to immediately become the industry standard, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Despite SHRM’s attempt to explain the controversy away, the battle over this seems to have just begun.
  • SHRM Orlando 2014 by the numbers: There was somewhere in the neighborhood of 13,500 attendees (including 1136 international attendees from 91 counties), 620 exhibitors with 1100 plus booths, 260 speakers, and 200 sessions here in Orlando.
  • Next year’s conference — it’s Vegas, Baby: Las Vegas has been the scene of some of SHRM”s largest and most successful conferences, including the 2007 event that set SHRM’s all-time attendance record. The 2015 event will be held a little later than usual — June 28-July 1 — but will probably draw a significantly larger crowd to the Nevada desert than SHRM had here in central Florida. Of course, TLNT will be there again to bring you the highlights.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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