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2006 Human Resource Planning Society Annual Global Conference

April 25, 2006
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2006 Human Resource Planning Society Annual Global Conference

April 23-26, 2006, at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona.

Event: 2006 Human Resource Planning Society Annual Global Conference, April 23-26, 2006, at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona.

What: Founded in 1977 and headquartered in New York City, the Human Resource Planning Society touts itself as the premier global association and network of senior human resource executives and thought leaders for more than 25 years. More than 70 percent of the 3,000 HRPS members represent firms of $500 million of more in annual sales.

Conference Info: For more information about the HRPS, go to

Day 2: Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Some HRPS attendance stats: HRPS president and CEO Walt Cleaver gave some interesting statistics on the Tucson conference before Tuesday’s keynote address. Of the roughly 630 conference attendees, 270 were first-time participants. They were mostly senior-level people; 77 percent had the title of director or higher, and 48 percent had the title of vice president or higher. There were also attendees from Germany, the U.K., New Zealand, Liberia, China, Australia and the Philippines. Canada had the largest group at the conference, with 35 participants.

Morning keynote, Day 2: Author and management speaker Marcus Buckingham talked at great length about the need for managers (and their companies) to focus more on building a person’s strengths rather than getting them to improve on their weaknesses. The late management guru Peter Drucker pretty much said the same thing through the course of his long career, but Buckingham says it with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm. He even coined a management buzzword for it--"individualization"--and said it basically comes down to the manager finding out what is unique about a person and capitalizing on it. Unfortunately, not a lot of organizations are doing it. Buckingham said that when he surveyed U.S. employees, he found that they only spend 17 percent of the workday playing to their strengths.

Afternoon keynote, Day 2: Libby Sartain gave an interesting talk on branding and how it can build up a company’s people function that touched on her long career at Southwest Airlines and, more recently, as senior vice president of human resources and chief people yahoo at Yahoo Inc. What jumped out of her speech, however, was this eye-popping stat: Yahoo now has some 500 million customers--more people than the populations of every country in the world except China and India.

Quotes of the show: A couple pithy quotes resonated with the crowd at HRPS on Tuesday. Ronald Williams, president of Aetna Inc., outlined his company’s turnaround in a presentation Monday. "We appreciate efforts; we reward results," he said in a line that was still creating a buzz on Tuesday morning. Some quotes were insightful but will remain anonymous because they were offered by attendees quoting friends or colleagues whom they didn’t name. "A vision without resources is a hallucination," one attendee said during the Q&A portion of a presentation. The chief responsibility of a manager, says consultant and author Marcus Buckingham, is "to turn one person’s talent into performance."

--Mark Schoeff Jr. and John Hollon

Date: Monday, April 24, 2006

Change, change and more change: The theme of this year’s HRPS conference is "Adapt & Thrive: Aligning, Engaging and Leading in Challenging Environments." As Ellen Glantz, one of the conference co-chairs, put it, the goal of the conference was to help senior HR leaders deal with the huge changes in the workforce and workplace: "how to handle change, how to get in control of change, and how to keep it from overwhelming us."

HRPS focuses on link between HR and business strategy: Branding can be as important for a nonprofit advocacy group as it can be for a business. Success depends on how an organization sets itself apart. The Human Resource Planning Society is trying to position itself as the group to turn to for guidance on linking HR and business strategy. The group, which draws together high-level HR executives, consultants and academics, is focusing on five areas: HR strategy and planning, leadership development, talent management, organizational effectiveness and building a strategic HR function. HRPS highlighted many of these themes at its Tucson conference. The event drew 630 people from throughout the U.S. and around the world–up from the 500 who attended last year in Miami.

Morning keynote, Day 1: The day’s keynote was given by Mary O’Hara-Devereaux, founder and president of Global Foresight and president of the Center for the Future of China. O’Hara-Devereaux is a futurist with 20 years of global forecasting experience. Her talk centered on the huge changes going on in the world today and how business and HR professionals are going to have to adjust. Some of her more interesting observations:

  • Women are going to become a much greater force in the workplace, especially given the rapid growth in the numbers of experienced, educated women.

  • Part of this, she says, is due to women becoming much more focused on their careers, especially later in life. O’Hara-Devereaux pointed to the fact that 50 percent of women over age 50 in California are single--trend that will spread nationwide by 2030.

  • China will grow and grow, then slow down somewhat. O’Hara-Devereaux says the country will evolve from a manufacturing power to a technical innovation power, particularly in agriculture, biotech and nanotechnology. China will become the second-largest global economy by 2020. To sustain the rapid economic expansion, however, growing environmental problems in China are something the Chinese will need to address.

  • Continuous learning will become the norm to succeed in the workplace. Much of this learning will be done in private institutions as public colleges and universities get squeezed for resources.

The satellite connection: High-tech speakers were in vogue with the HRPS crowd. During a morning session on global trends and implications, Jack So Chak Kwong, deputy chairman and group managing director of Pacific Century Cyberworks, the leading telecommunications company in Hong Kong, participated in a panel discussion via satellite phone from Hong Kong--even fielding questions from the Tucson audience. Afternoon speaker Lynda Gratton, a professor of management practice at the London Business School, did one better: She gave her entire presentation, "Cooperating on Purpose: How Organizations Create More Value, More Successfully When People Collaborate More Skillfully," with PowerPoint charts and audience participation via satellite hookup from England, at 1 a.m. London time.

Conference buzzword (courtesy of Mary O’Hara-Devereaux): "Sustainability." That’s the ability to maintain innovation and flexibility and the knack for keeping a business moving ahead. Sustainability will grow in importance as a value for both the workforce and management.

--Mark Schoeff Jr. and John Hollon

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