Heard in the Halls Game On

By Staff Report

Jun. 22, 2008

Heard in the Halls—Sunday, June 22

Busy, busy: The last-minute preparations were in full swing just before the masses of HR professionals at this year’s SHRM conference descended on the show floor in search of all manner of swag … er, information for improving their companies. It was so busy, in fact, that the teams staffing many booths were huddled up like they were planning a deep-pass route to nearby Soldier Field.

But members of family-owned corporate recognition firm Michael C. Fina managed a few seconds to talk. “We’re introducing a new product,” said George Fina. “We’ve been to a lot of SHRM conferences, but this one’s going to be good. I think it’s going to be a really good conference.”

Continuing education: Karen Thaxton was sitting on the floor outside the SHRM bookstore with her daughter, Kiersten. Karen was busy plotting her SHRM conferences. For Kiersten, it was her tourist activities.

“This is also an opportunity to find vendors,” said Karen, human resources director for Townsend Corporate in Parker City, Indiana, which is now venturing into wind power. “We’re going through a lot of changes—acquisitions and consolidations. We’re looking for help with recruiting, benefit management and employee recognition.”

Her focus for sessions? “Strategic management.”

One big booth: Phoenix-based has a big presence at this year’s SHRM. A big, big presence.

After making its SHRM debut last year in Las Vegas, has the conference’s biggest booth in Chicago—8,800 square feet. The mammoth booth is being staffed by about 120 people.

“It’s quite an undertaking for us,” said PR director Joe Cockrell. “But this conference is very important to us.”

Incentive plan: Lourdes Cooke of Vista Staffing Solutions knows how to stretch a budget. The HR manager of the Salt Lake City company carried an armful of books through the SHRM store Sunday afternoon.

“We try to go out of our way to give something meaningful to our employees when they join our company,” Cooke said. “It’s just a little way to say, ‘Welcome, we appreciate you. Here’s a gift; you mean a lot to us.’ “

The books Cooke will be distributing to future Vista Staffing Solutions employees include Colin Powell’s Powell Principles; Dogs Don’t Bite When a Growl Will Do, by Matt Weinstein and Luke Barber; and Ken Blanchard’s Simple Truths of Service.

“They’re all pretty fast reads,” she said. “We don’t want to be giving them a homework assignment.”

Sad note: Janet Parker, the current chair of SHRM’s board of directors, was absent from Sunday’s opening general session.

A death in her family prevented her from attending, said SHRM president and CEO Sue Meisinger. Chair-designate Robb Van Cleave filled in for Parker during the speech.
—Rick Bell

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