Conferences are brain-cell massacres

Today, I am going to betray the profession – the top part, at any rate. All
those people who wander off to exotic locations (Harrogate, for example) to
take part in the learning sham that is HR conferencing. Yes – I am putting the
‘con’ into conference.

Let’s be clear; it’s not the organisers, the speakers or even the locales I
am having a go at. It’s HR, for daring to claim that this is a learning
exercise, rather than a great excuse to hammer the expense account.

Conferences are not about brain stimulation, they’re about brain-cell
massacre, as another glass of wine tips the scales and leads you to that
inevitable conclusion just around midnight: "I can dance – watch me!"

One speaker at a conference I recently attended, at the end of his tether
despite the enormous salary he was getting, said: "This is good advice,
but I guarantee you won’t do anything about it." Not that he cared. HR’s
inaction meant he could use the same line on the conference circuit year in and
year out. And people thought he was joking…

The thing is, you are way to busy to actually do any of this new stuff you
pick up at conferences. You’re bogged down already; if you come back trying to
behave like Superman/woman, people are going to laugh at you. Still, you need
to get ahead – deal with that ‘big picture’ stuff if you’re going to make it
onto the board.

So what to do? Should HR slice itself in two, making a clear strategic/admin
divide? I’ll leave you to think about that while I dream up ways to justify
some enormous expenses accumulated during my last getaway – sorry, seminar.

Hartley is an HR director at large

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