People Managers. Human Resource Managers. Whatever you prefer. They both sound weird, although the former seems less offensive. Different terms but the same role – managing the human work force in an organisation.
During my first Economics lesson way back when I was thirteen (that’s only 8 years ago but it seems like centuries to me), our teacher taught us about the fundamental starting point of all economic studies, better known as, SCARCITY. We learned the basics that day – resources, resource allocation, needs, wants. And amidst these terms and their definitions came the concept of human beings as resources. I laughed at it back then but now I understand its implications on society and the economy. More so, that lesson introduced a concept of not only an economic nature to me but also of a business, financial, psychological and social nature. At the time I remember taking a keen interest in Human Resources or HR especially after working a couple of part-time jobs in my late teens that didn’t possess the most popular of HR Managers. It is a tricky role to be occupying. For a while I held the thought that if one was an HR Manager, the staff would either hate them or love them. The reason is because the HR is the person in charge of the work environment, employee satisfaction, staff social and community work activities, roster and shift placements and so much more related to the employee. Although, in essence there are many internal and external factors that affect labour retention and employee satisfaction, the HR Manager is seen as the one who should maintain the balance at work. It is a tough job and some decisions the HR makes and the style of management they apply can really harm the company if done wrongly or carelessly.
Well, on Friday 8 October 2010, I decided to attend my first ever HR conference organised by the Foundation for Human Resources Development (FHRD): National Annual HR Development Conference and HR & Training Fair 2010. The theme this year was “Choose change today for sustainable organisations” and was a relevant one to consider seeing that in the last few years of recession companies were seeking to reduce labour costs but are now trying to manage their staff better possibly through recruitment and current employee motivation. HR Managers must be even more aware of micro factors in their company and macro factors in their economy and internationally, as these greatly affect the working population on so many levels.
Error #1: I showed up at the conference in jeans. I usually dress smart for these events but I was in a hurry and opted for a shirt, jeans and gladiator sandals. MAJOR ERROR. The only other woman wearing the exact same attire was pregnant. Everyone else was in suits and executive wear. We take things so seriously in Malta. Abroad, I bet people would dress a little less formal. Anyway, this is just me ranting because of my obvious wardrobe malfunction. Well, at least one of the speakers was in jeans. Jon Worth FTW!
Error #2: The irony of the professional image of the event (suits and all) was that there were no security guards and no identification tags were given to participants. I could have just walked in and attended all the sessions without anyone batting an eyelid. It’s a shame as this was a paid for event and should have been exclusive. When you pay money for something you don’t expect freeloaders to walk in. Party crashing is cool until it’s “my” party that’s being crashed.
Kudos #1: The sessions ran really smoothly and the speakers stuck to the allocated time. We even finished 5 minutes earlier than expected. Not a big difference but still cool.
Kudos #2: I loved the speakers. I really did. The first speaker was Annika Galea – Director of HR at Hilton Malta. I felt she was perfect as an opening speaker and her presence and delivery generated the highest number of feedback questions from the floor. Annika spoke about end-to-end engagement in HR and it was a very interesting topic especially for the student who is looking into a career in HR. The second speaker was Joshua Zammit, the Deputy Vice-President of Actavis Group. He had a very different approach which was also interesting – HR Transformation and Innovation. One aspect he covered, which really struck me was that “an organisation ismade of human beings but it can be the most dehumanising environment a person may interact in.” He recommended a book about the topic which talks about a company called HCL which evolved on this concept. Their mantra is to “Put the human being back in business” and the book is called “Employee First, Customer Second”. The last speaker was John C. Grech – a visiting lecturer of International Economics at the Mediterranean Academy at the University of Malta. He mentioned some really good points on a macro level and invited participants to question how globalisation is affecting their organisation.
Kudos #3: The number of participating companies increased from 90 to 128 from last year and the number of participants present was over 300! Impressive and noteworthy.
Kudos #4: There were four parallel workshops which covered some really good diverse topics. The first which was on organisational law and the third which was on organisational change did not really tickle my fancy, so I was stuck on the second and fourth. The first was on HR metrics or benchmarks in business strategy. I thought that would be quite interesting – understanding standardisation in HR evaluation, performance etc. However, I ended up opting for the fourth workshop which was on “Harnessing the Power of Social Media in the Workplace.” At least, I would have hit two birds with one stone – attending my first HR conference and my first Social Media workshop. The speakers were Jon Worth and Saviour Balzan, so good stuff all round!
Looking back, it was quite a positive experience. I probably felt a bit lost on the day because I didn’t know anyone, although I think I did recognise a few students in suits. If I had to make a wild guess I’d say that 99% of the people present were HR Managers and 60% knew each other already from previous conferences or business partnerships et al. I did speak to one or two HR managers and I bumped into a lecturer and the Young Enterprise team. So that was cool I guess. Hopefully, I will also be posting a blog evaluation of the Social Media workshop as I found it very relevant to my line of voluntary work. Some of you who work in media or any other organisation, to be honest, will find it quite informative. It will be a brief assessment as you have to understand that I paid to attend this workshop. It’s only fair.
If you have any questions or feedback to add on this event review just post below or send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.Disclaimer: I have no affiliation or agreement with FHRD to review their events. This was written purely for personal and educational reasons.