My Top 5 Takeaways from the CUNA HR/TD Conference

Lesson 3: The new ‘normal’ is anything but.

May 18, 2011

San Francisco happens to be my hometown and one of my favorite places, so it was delightful to attend the 2011 CUNA Human Resource (HR) and Training & Development (TD) Council Annual Conference hosted right in my back yard.

Besides the obvious draw of the city itself, the conference schedule was packed with amazing speakers, covering topics that are important to HR professionals in any industry. Here are my top five takeaways:

5. Whose name is in the envelope? Is she/he ready to lead?

Jim Cardwell, CEO of Cardwell Leadership, spoke to the importance of succession planning and leadership development. He talked about leadership competencies and the need for succession plans to be purposeful.

While the primary discussion points were on CEO succession, there were many opportunities for dialog on leadership development. Jim offered suggestions for HR practitioners who are challenged with a retiring leadership team and have little or no plan for a smooth transition.

He also reminded us that while many might stop at the assessment phase, assessment isn’t development.

Book recommendation: “The Successful Manager Handbook.” Ordered it that same day!

4. Everyone has something to learn and something to teach.

Bill Capodagli’s presentation on innovation was inspiring and timely. He highlighted the importance of the story, setting, role, and backstage as we partner with our corporate enterprise to achieve goals and improve efficiencies.

HR/TD can help whittle away departmental silos by advocating for cross-functional mentors, coaches, and subject matter experts who can see outside the lines and play nice in the sand box.

Working with adults is similar to working with kids. Kids like toys, and so do adults. Kids like to move around, interact, and see how things work. So do adults. Kids like stories, color, and visual stimulation—so do adults.

Note to self: learn Prezi.

3. The new normal is anything but.

I have three and a half pages of notes from the presentation by CUNA Senior Economist Steve Rick’s. That’s amazing for a finance presentation to an HR/TD crowd.

Even more amazing was the full house of HR professionals who are actively seeking to understand this aspect of our industry. Kudos!

Rick spoke to the “new” normal: subdued economic growth, weak demand on supply, a new era of thrift, and unemployment rates that exceed the “natural” level of 5%.

On the bright side, CUNA forecasts loan growth of 4% in 2011 and 6% in 2012 following a 1.5% decline in 2010.

2. Engagement: Is it the flavor du jour?

Employee engagement has bubbled to top of mind at the c-suite. HR/TD professionals have been watching the engagement wave for some time, periodically reporting on rough seas ahead.

My takeaway on engagement was just how pervasive the topic is among my peers. Steve Browne’s “Cultures that Rock!” session and Sean McDonald’s “Outstanding Leadership” break-out were enthusiastically attended. So was the Café Conversation led by Rob Carmichael, senior vice president of HR/TD for Maine Savings Federal Credit Union.

HR/TD professionals can and must continue to be the scout for the c-suite, as well as influencers and coaches to unhappy managers and restless employees.

1. HR/TD must be purposeful.

The final and most important lesson I learned was that “learning doesn’t stick if I don’t have an outlet to use the information or practice the skill.”

HR/TD professionals must transfer their “a-ha” moments to meaningful activity on the job. The end result of a conference experience must be actionable items with measurable goals and accountabilities.

A conference is only the beginning of the learning process. Much more practice, discussion, and follow-up time must be scheduled on the job to ensure your takeaways are brought back into the office—and not left in the trunk of the car.

MICHELLE GREEAR, CUDE, is vice president, learning and development, for Technology Credit Union, San Jose, Calif. Contact her at 408-441-4735.

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