Even in the wake of a freak April snowstorm that barreled down on the Twin Cities the night before the 2013 HR Tomorrow Conference, "Achieving Excellence through Innovative HR," attendees were greeted by spring-like yellow napkins and bright flowers that donned the tables in the main hall.
The snow may have stunted the growth of the plants outside, but it was no match for the growth of innovative learning that took place at the Conference.
Professor and CHRLS Director John Budd tweeted, "Going to take more than 6 inches of snow (it is April 19, right?) to derail #hrtomorrow2013. Looking forward to seeing many alums. #UMNProud."
And he was right.
Over 275 attendees were able to dig themselves out of the snow and arrive at the Carlson School of Management for networking and learning from HR professionals.
Many people had to get creative and think of "innovative" ways to make it to the event, some going to great lengths to attend the annual conference. Marc Gauthier, '12 MA-HRIR, drove from Chicago in the middle of the night after his flight was cancelled, even sharing a ride with a stranger.
Another attendee was forced to take her snow blower out of retirement just to plow her way through her driveway to make it to the event.
The conference kicked off with Breakfast sponsored by Eaton Corporation, and Morning Keynote Speaker Craig Weber, who presented on "Conversational Capacity and Adaptive Learning." After two morning breakout sessions featuring 8 presentations, conference attendees enjoyed the Networking Luncheon sponsored by GE before moving into the afternoon breakout session and another 4 sessions. Afternoon Keynote Speaker Mike Meyer finished off the program with his presentation on "Beating the Odds - Successful M&A Integration," followed by a Reception sponsored by Ingersoll Rand.
The conference welcomed returning and new attendees alike. Julie Schulke attended the conference for the 9th year in a row: she began attending the conference in 2005 with sponsor C.H. Robinson, and has returned not only to represent the company, but to learn new information from the human resources field.
"Personally, I've found great benefit in the event from a content, networking, and personal development standpoint," Schulke said. "I always try and attend a breakout session that is relevant to my current work, one that is relevant to my overall role, and one that fulfills some curious interest that I have."
A first-time attendee had a similar positive experience. "I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and gained a wealth of knowledge and information," this attendee noted. "This was my first conference and I am energized by what I can try to bring back and apply in my department. I am already looking forward to next year."
Some participants of the CHRLS Alumni Mentorship Program saw the conference as an opportunity to continue building their relationship with their mentor or mentee. Mentor Amy Sapa Dayal, '06 MA-HRIR, lives in California and the HR Tomorrow Conference gave her and her mentee, first year MA-HRIR student Amanda Brooker, an opportunity to connect in person for the first time.
"I'm glad that we were able to finally meet--it's much better to talk in person than over phone and email!" Brooker said.
Attendees represented a wide range of HR experience, from experienced HR professionals to current students. One student said, "As an MA-HRIR student, I found the topics engaging. It was nice to see how theories we learn about in the program are implemented in a professional setting."
More seasoned attendees had similar thoughts: "I enjoy the conference every year that I attend. It is very well organized, always well-attended, and provides a great chance to learn more about innovative HR practices," an attendee said. Another participant commented, "The HR Tomorrow Conference provides valuable learning experiences and great networking opportunities."
Attendees left the conference looking forward to next year's event and hoping that April snow showers would only be an innovative memory and a one-time story to tell.