With preliminary attendance figures off by about 4,000 attendees from 2008, the opening day of the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference gave the general membership its first introduction to its new leader, as well as a fresh look at employee benefits.
During Sunday’s press conference following former GE chief Jack Welch’s keynote address at the 61st annual SHRM conference in New Orleans, the organization released its 2009 Employee Benefits Survey. Sixty percent of HR professionals say the recession has caused their organization to cut back or maintain benefits offerings, according to the June 28 release.
“Six of 10 employers say the recession has affected benefits,” said SHRM director of research Steve Williams. “Companies are scaling back on some benefits, including executive bonuses and relocation.”
A companion survey noted that the recession has not affected overall job satisfaction. Employees ranked job security as key to job satisfaction, followed by benefits, compensation, opportunities to use skills and abilities, and feeling safe at work, the survey noted.
New SHRM president and CEO Laurence "Lon" O’Neil opened the day’s events, offering the general assembly a glimpse into what SHRM will offer its membership in the future.
“We are adapting to meet your needs; how can we help members during these tough times?” said O’Neil, who was absent from the later press conference because of scheduling conflicts. “SHRM’s mission is more needed now than ever. These are the most challenging times in history.”
O’Neil, who said a social networking site soon will be rolled out for members, also praised those in attendance and reassured them by adding, “You’re not alone when you’re a member of SHRM.”
Preliminary attendance figures noted that as of Saturday, there were 6,808 attendees, compared with the roughly 11,000 members who attended the SHRM conference last year in Chicago and 13,000 attendees in 2007 in Las Vegas. Figures also showed there are 594 exhibitors this year in New Orleans.
Additional conference highlights include:
• The establishment of the Susan R. Meisinger Fellowship, a $10,000 annual stipend that will be awarded to a graduate-level student pursuing a master’s degree focused on human resources. The award recognizes Meisinger, who retired in 2008 as SHRM’s president and CEO, for her belief in education furthering the HR profession.
• The announcement that SHRM’s Curriculum Guideline in practical HR theory has been adopted by more than 100 universities globally.