Monday, September 08, 2008

Back from My Trip to Hamburger University

I recently got back from a trip to a conference at Hamburger University, the McDonald's training facility outside of Chicago. The campus is lovely although it rained all day Thursday, but fortunately there is a covered walkway from the training center to the hotel where we had lunch and the evening networking reception. I bought a little umbrella for the walk to the parking lot (and for later if it was still raining) that has little McDonald's golden arches all around it. Not so sure I'll be using it much but I'm glad I had it as the rain was really pouring later in the evening.

Our day one keynote speaker was Bruce Tulgan, who gave a talk on (the) “Workforce through the Generational Lens”. He was fascinating and energetic, a good thing early in the morning after flying all day the day before and crashing to bed after checking in at the hotel. Click on the video clip on his website for a taste of what we heard that morning.

His thinking on how each new workforce generation impacts the previous one's thinking and the future of business does make one pause to think - the company I work for has a decidedly younger attitude, even though most of the leadership are Baby Boomers.

This is somewhat accounted
for, I believe,by being in hi-tech where people have to always be innovating and thinking of the next wave of customer needs, but I also think that newer (mostly younger) hires are less discouraged by fossilized culture and thinking in hi-tech, allowing them to bring the positive virtues of their generational style more quickly into the overall stream of progress. Nobody has the time to "earn their chops" when speed of innovation is the most important factor. Not a lot of looking back goes on, it's all about "What are you going to do for me tomorrow?"

I particularly enjoyed his discussion about the current crop of new workers - the ones in my children's generation. "Self-esteem on steroids" "most high maintenance workforce generation in the history of the world" are two tags he gives them. Crucial to understanding how to lead this group of workers is that they were raised under a constant barrage of self-esteem messages and kept occupied by structured activities, yet often they go to work and are "empowered" by managers who think a hands off approach will work with them.

Yes, that's a broad generalization, but their parents (um, me included) were the generation of Soccer Moms - right? Also, he's talking to an audience of corporate managers or recruiters, so the focus is on the new workers who are coming out of colleges and MBA programs - young people who were put on waiting lists for the best day-care the day the pregnancy test came up positive.

So these young workers' lives revolved around organized play-groups and huge percentages of their daily activities were "outsourced" to child care, camps, sports and classes. Not very many of them were told to 'go play outside' and had to think up their own fun - they were coached, taught and organized from a very early age. And all of them were raised in the tech-age - they instinctively go to the internet for data, they have the knowledge of the entire world at their fingertips - what they need from their managers and leaders is someone who will coach and guide them on how to use that knowledge to be productive, make a contribution and get ahead. This clip is a highlight from that portion of the talk. I guess it's pretty obvious I enjoyed the session.

Day two's keynote was
from Alan Beaulieu, Institute for Trend Research on “The Impact of Economics on Contract Labor” (this was the VMS Professionals conference - VMS being vendor management systems - or the methodology, tools, practices and people who manage the use of third party company labor like temporary, contract and consulting workers). This was a bit of a downer, as he did not tell us things are getting better anytime soon with the economy. However, he was an energetic and funny speaker who did give us good information about where his analysis found places one can weather out the impact of the downturn - and he thinks by 2010 we'll be riding the tide upwards again.

I met some lovely people, didn't win any of the drawings (and they were good ones) but handed out a number of cards and was asked to speak to a couple groups on the things my program is doing about a different aspect of VMS mgmt that's just starting to take hold at many of their companies - something I've been working on and in for the last four years.

Of course Saturday, the day I flew home, was beautiful and sunny and I got to enjoy it for all of the 15 minute drive back to the rental car drop off. One of these days I do hope to visit Chicago just to enjoy the tourist-y stuff.

Sunday was the local Art and Wine festival. We arrived at 10:00 am, got great parking at the structure just off the main street where the festival is held and made it through most of the fair before the weather got too hot and the crowds terribly large. I talk about what I purchased on my beading blog if you've any interest in hand crafted beads and jewelry. We bought our annual
souvenir tee shirts and glasses, wine glass for me, beer stein for the husband, and went out to lunch. I had a craving for beef, so we went to Black Angus for a late lunch.

I spent most of the rest of the day playing with my beading, catching up on emails and at Absolute Write - now it's back to work. Hope we all have a great week.

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