Nashville is a beautiful, vibrant city, located on the meandering Cumberland River and surrounded by rolling green, tree-covered hills. The city, famed for its music, is not just about country and western – rock and pop also feature large. Whilst the IPMA-HR conference was in town Taylor Swift and Metallica made appearances.
The historic Nashville Broadway is a lively area made up of shops, bars and continuous live music including the old country ‘honky tonk’. Nashville is the state capital of Tennessee and is ‘Music City USA’.
The conference was staged at the magnificent Renaissance Hotel and conference centre – so named as it marked the origins of redevelopment of downtown Nashville in the 1970’s. The hotel’s facilities are considerable and the scale often mind-boggling. Rightly so for a conference that on occasions hosted up to nine concurrent workshops on a wide array of HR topics. The main auditorium seats 1,000 easily and there are many well-equipped breakout rooms.
The hospitality, kindness and friendliness of my American hosts knew no bounds – the president Joe Lunt, a real dynamic force, made every effort to make me welcome and even indulged me by agreeing to a 30-minute video interview where I asked questions of Transatlantic comparison and contrast (watch out for more on that interview soon!).
The conference was graced by three exceptional keynote speakers – one for each main day of the conference.
The conference was opened by the hugely motivational and evangelical Dr Dennis Kimbro, from Atlanta University Business School. Such is his speaking prowess that IPMA-HR members specifically asked for him to return to their conference following an oratory powerhouse display in Las Vegas in 2008. Dr Kimbro presented the theme of developing the next generation of leaders and provided his speech within the context of the current economic and employment turbulence in the US.
Dr Kimbro spoke of the need to develop leadership talent in the public sector to provide clarity of purpose and transformation of services under the cloud of acute financial pressure. His delivery was so stirring he received a standing ovation as he concluded. He has kindly agreed to speak at the London 2010 PPMA conference and I hope will be a real treat, as well as providing a very different presentational style, for a UK audience.
Day two of the conference saw a very different keynote speaker style from Dr Robert Hogan – probably known to many UK HR practitioners for the Hogan assessment instrument. Dr Hogan also spoke about leadership and took a psychometric and personality-based approach to the subject. His presentation – the leadership value chain – examined the links between personality, leadership and organisational effectiveness – dependent on the organisation’s leader.
The closing keynote address of the conference was provided by Dr Charlotte Roberts – an expert on learning organisations. She also delivered a presentation on leadership and covered the ground of considering leadership necessary for the next decade in the US. Dr Roberts also covered ground on ethical leadership and the impact of ethical and non-ethical leadership on the organisation.
Three key themes emerged as the hallmark of the IPMA-HR conference 2009:
- The recession and its devastating impact on jobs. Any number of workshops throughout the conference covered the ground of downsizing, legal issues as well as behavioural impact and considerations.
- Leadership and the need for leaders to transform organisations in order to survive the recession – in particular the impact of the recession on public services in the US.
- How to achieve effective organisational transformation and have a clear vision for future public services.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? I am reminded of what striking similarities exist between the US and the UK even when separated by 3,000 miles of ocean. Globalisation is prevalent in so many forms – recession, societal impact, and human resource management.
Dean Shoesmith – Vice President (Elect) PPMA