Wednesday, December 03, 2008

NHRD National conference-Beyond HR!!?

Higher the expectations- higher the disappointment, I reconcile.

I like to attend conferences. It is a great way to keep one abreast of the macro-view of the industry, listen and learn from the insights of the successful and future leaders, get a 'condensed concentrate' of the experience and vision of the speakers-and get a 'heads up' about the likely trends in the future! In addition, I have always also managed to come back with a handful of new relationships - while still reinforcing a few old ones.

Having attended 3 of the 'once in 2 yrs' National HRD conferences events in the past decade, the Chennai event last week, I felt the experience was an unfortunate dampener!!

After a sizzling launch earlier (of the event) this year, one really cannot blame it on the economic downturn that saw less than expected registrations!! (To be fair to the organisers, the 'early bird' bonanza was kept open much longer to rope in more delegates.) Maybe the Mumbai blasts on the eve of the function kept a few more Mumbai delegates/speakers grounded!!To add to it, some sudden floods drowned parts of Chennai may have kept a few more away. What was surprising -that though there was a decent number of attendees- the quality of the deliberations or the interactions were singularly uninspiring.

Save Mr Ramadorai of TCS-who gave the opening remarks, and the key note of Mr Rajesh Nambiar of IBM, there seemed to be no other business leader among the speakers. It was an 'all HR show' with over a dozen presentations each day-and ironically-every one of them stretching beyond their allotted time- leaving hardly any time for an 'meaningful interactive sessions'- that may have significantly added value to our insights!

There were many innovations designed -but somewhere -execution went awry! Power Networking sessions were announced before the event-leveraging on the increasingly popular social networking sites (LinkedIn and Facebook)!! Media Partner Sify had a feature one could transmit the proceedings live -so that delegates could perhaps attend one of the concurrent sessions- and catch up with the missed ones! The Stationery among the conference kit had customised formats. A new HR directory was launched, research findings about future workforce expectations were shared, also a new logo was unveiled!!

There were topics on diversity-inclusiveness, trade unions, new value chain, public sector, industry-academia, collaborative networks...and the other popular buzz words !! As I look thru the notes I have, there really aren't any significant take aways!!
Is it that the HR fraternity in the Indian corporate world didn't find meaning in this event? Was it not a great time to take stock-and find answers for the way ahead?? To go beyond the fluff and cliche's? Believe me, I really did get a creepy feeling that those assembled in Chennai Trade centre -had nothing else to do!!

And as I google around, I notice, in contrast to the 'pre-conference' media coverage-there is very little mention online..apart from a handout , either by the media-or even the blogging community-save Praveena's 'what not to do ', or a passing mention by Saikat Saha !!
I hope the lack of imagination/ dynamism is restricted to the lack lustre conference-and not a reflection of the larger purpose HR can and should play!! Especially as India is right there at the crossroads- on the path to greatness. The second fastest growing economy, the nation with the best demographic figures on its side, and a huge potential considering the Human capital!! I shall be delighted if I have been able to provoke some one who can prove me wrong !!


Anish Aravind said...

Dear Mr. Menon,
We missed catching up at Chennai.. I agree with your views - Expectations reduce Joy !
I had a 'special time' with Nature's fury and Chennai Rickshaw drivers(only ones who braved the flood waters and took me to the Conference venue) and in the process missed the most talked about session on the first day.
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