Event: ERE Expo
When: April 17-19, 2007
Where: Marriott San Diego Hotel & Marina
What: ERE Expo brings together recruiting and staffing experts to discuss issues in the talent acquisition arena. This is the seventh annual ERE Expo event, and it also includes the ERE Recruiting Excellence Awards.
Day 1—Tuesday, April 17, 2007
ERE’s Recruiting Excellence Awards was an event to remember for Aimco. The Denver-based real estate company won two awards—Most Effective Use of Staffing Metrics and Best Employee Retention Program/Practices—during the opening-night awards ceremony. Aimco was nominated for four awards in total, outshining such big names as Starbucks and Microsoft.
Neal Bruce, VP of alliances at Monster, was the master of ceremonies for the evening’s black-tie event, which was packed with excited attendees. The wine was flowing—perhaps too much. Bruce had a difficult time getting the crowd to stop the chatter. "Hello, there is a 6-foot 7-inch guy standing up on stage," he said. "Let’s focus."
Day 2—Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Arte Nathan’s opening keynote speech revved up the crowd. Nathan, the colorful former longtime senior VP and chief human resources officer for Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas, kicked things off by confessing that he is changing his ways and is eliminating his self-proclaimed title of HR’s shock jock.
"After [Don] Imus’ debacle last week, I’m cleaning up my act," he said. "No more four-letter words for me."
Jokes aside, Nathan turned serious when he began talking about his golden rule of HR: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. He also urged the audience to put the "human" back in human resources.
"I’m a fan of technology," says Nathan, who now is vice president of HR for real estate firm Irvine Co. in Irvine, California. "But more than anything, I’m a fan of what humans can do with that technology."
He also insists that recruiters should walk the walk when it comes to pushing diversity in the workplace.
"It is not just about bringing in women and older workers," Nathan noted. "There are other groups that are also excluded, such as ex-cons or ex-gang bangers."
For the most part, Nathan kept his promise of staying away from four-letter words, though his explanations indeed were colorful.
"I’m an old dog," he said. "And you know what they say about teaching us new tricks."
ERE conference hosts appeared to pull the plug on a much-anticipated verbal throwdown between blogger Joel Cheesman and Jobster CEO Jason Goldberg, a sponsor of the event. The original rules of the match: Cheesman was supposed to be able to pose any five questions to Goldberg about his company. However, he barely eked out four questions. It isn’t clear whether the grilling was cut short to keep the event on schedule or because the questions were getting too intense.
Shortly after question No. 2, in which Cheesman asked whether the exodus of high-level executives at Jobster was an indication of rats jumping from a sinking ship, music began playing and an announcer reminded the audience that the main presenter would be starting promptly at 9 a.m. There was uncomfortable chuckling in the room, then they quickly powered through two more questions.
Peter Zollman’s presentation shed light on how recruiters can be more effective by using tools other than newspapers to advertise. He mentioned everything from Web aggregators, such as Indeed.com and SimplyHired, to niche sites such as Lawjobs.com and Builderjobs.com. Some of his favorite sites: BostonWorks.com, ChicagoJobs.com, Knoxjobs.tv and Nailtheinterview.com. For recruiting in the U.K., Web site Bebo is useful, Zollman said, while in Brazil, Orchid is a must.
Jim Cramer, host of the popular business TV show "Mad Money," caused quite a stir in mid-April within the job board industry when he identified Monster Worldwide as a potential takeover target. Cramer urged newspaper giant Gannett Co. Inc. to call its bankers immediately and put in a bid for Monster.
Cramer believes such an acquisition would give Gannett a much-needed shot in the arm and provide a way to remain relevant in today’s Internet-driven marketplace. Yet, what are the chances of such a multibillion-dollar deal ever happening?
It depends on who you ask. And there was plenty of speculation during the conference, although Neil Bruce, vice president of alliances at Monster, says that the company is not positioning itself to be a takeover target. Despite its lackluster stock price, an options backdating scandal and the recent shuffle in leadership, Monster is in it for the long haul, he says.
"Selling is just not our strategy," he says.
Others, however, see troubled waters ahead for Monster.
"I can see Monster being acquired," says Kevin Wheeler, president of Global Learning Resources, a Fremont, California, consulting firm. "But it wouldn’t be a good buy because it is not a business in growth mode."
According to Wheeler, all the big job boards are facing serious hurdles brought on largely by smaller but highly effective competitors, including niche job sites and social networking platforms.
Most recruiting industry experts contend that if Monster were to be acquired, Gannett wouldn’t be the buyer.
"It just wouldn’t make any sense because Gannett already owns CareerBuilder," says Peter Zollman, founding principal of Classified Intelligence. Just because Gannett isn’t a likely buyer doesn’t mean that other contenders won’t step up, he explains. Google and Fox Interactive are two media companies large enough to absorb Monster.
"Yet, nothing would surprise me," he says.
For his part, Gerry Crispin, a principal of Kendall Park, New Jersey-based CareerXroads, doubts a sale of Monster is in the cards.
"They wouldn’t get the price that they would be willing to sell for," Crispin says.
He also believes Monster has a strong lineup of products in the pipeline and it would hold out on selling until it reaps the rewards of these efforts because, if successful, they can bolster the value of the company.
"They have great aspirations for the future," Crispin says.
For now, Monster is focusing on its product launches and on firming up its alliances with print publishers, which provide access to small markets throughout the country. Neil concedes that market forces ultimately will dictate what happens.
"I suppose everything has a price," he says.
Day 3—Thursday, April 19, 2007
The morning was buzzing not with chatter about recruiting strategies or the day’s panelists, but instead about the previous night’s ouster of Sanjaya Malakar from the TV show "American Idol."
"I’ll be sad to see him go," one woman said. "But I’m not too worried because Disney will probably pick him up."
Another hot topic of discussion: partying. It was apparent that ERE attendees took advantage of the nightlife San Diego has to offer. Several people were chatting in the halls about how they had heard people returning to their rooms from their various outings in the wee hours of the morning.
"The noise in the hall woke me up at 3:30 a.m.," one attendee said.
When Michael McNeal, VP of strategy and acquisition at Intuit, took an unofficial poll of who had gone to the nearby Gaslamp District, the crowd burst into cheers. McNeal hit some hot spots and joked about suffering the consequences.
"I am two people: Morning Michael and Night Michael," he said. "Right now, Morning Michael is upset with Night Michael."
Morning Michael then offered the audience Visine eyedrops and Tylenol. Finally, he shared several important words of wisdom about talent management:
• Learn to articulate. HR execs must be able to clearly and confidently express their needs and strategies to the C-suite. "They need to know what we do and why we do it," McNeal says. "Otherwise, why give us a budget?"
• Have passion for what you do. "If all you are doing is hiring for the sake of hiring without aspirations of looking for the best, then quit," he notes.
• Be able to grow as fast as your business. Self-development is an integral part of being passionate and committed to your job.
McNeal apparently rallied the audience from its early morning stupor as the crowd loudly applauded his speech. There was no indication, however, on the number of people who borrowed his eyedrops.
The U.S. Army does its best to change with the times, according to Col. Donald Bartholomew. The organization recently injected several changes into its talent management strategy—increasing the age eligibility, broadening its referral bonus program and increasing marketing dollars for localized efforts.
The once-popular motto of "Be All That You Can Be" has evolved, with the latest iteration being "Strong Army."
One of the Army’s most controversial changes is the revamp of its tattoo policy. It used to be that would-be soldiers could not have tattoos that were visible when wearing a uniform.
That policy is a bit different now, since some 24 percent of its target audience has some form of body art, Bartholomew said. Now soldiers are allowed to have tattoos that are visible, as long as they are only on the back of the head or on the hands.
"Some of our old fuddy-duddies had a fit when we got more flexible," Bartholomew said.