If you haven’t check out our Buzzword Guide the Recruiting Conference Season blog series.

This will be a short post but something that’s been on my mind lately and something I wanted to share.  I’ve been able to travel and participate in a number of great recruiting events recently with SmashFly (and while I’m not there, SmashFly is at ERE right now Booth #111.)

One thing I have to say about these events is that I’m rarely disappointing by the great thought leadership and impactful case studies that are provided during these conferences.  There’s always a lot to learn from the sessions whether it’s about Talent Networks and Pipelines, Military Recruiting, Capturing and Using Analytics, Candidate Experience, Career Site Branding, Mobile Recruiting or a whole host of Talent Acquisition topics.

However, a lot of times I wonder how successful these learning sessions are at enacting real change.  I see attendees take furious notes during these sessions but in many cases I don’t see the learnings take hold.

And it was at last year’s HR Tech that Jason Averbook pointed out this phenomena.  I’m paraphrasing here but basically he noted how we’ve been speaking about the same topics that we have been focused on the last 3 years.  Big Data, Analytics, Social, Mobile are all important and the question is why haven’t most accomplished things in these areas.

So as we learn about talent acquisition strategies and initiatives, here’s my suggestions to ensure you get more out of the conference season.

Focus on Concepts Not Execution

The first thing that I notice in going into conference sessions and talking to practitioners afterwords is that many come out of the session taking the presentation too literally.  This leads to two main problems.

It either makes them dead-set on implementing the same exact strategy as the company they saw present.  Or at the total opposite side of the spectrum, they think it’s was a great initiative and session that couldn’t possibly work for their specific industry.

In either case, the attendee is focusing on the execution elements of the presentation.  And what they should have been doing is to focus on the general concepts and takeaways of why the initiative was successful for the organization presenting.  It’s in the strategic part of it that we can begin thinking about ideas on how we can apply what worked for others to our company and processes.  Every company is different but success of initiatives at one company can fuel success for other companies if we can truly understand and capture the essence of initiatives and apply them to our unique situations.

Leave with an Action Plan

Contrary to popular belief, this starts before you even travel to the conference.  First, you should take a look at your organization and decide what you really want to learn more about.  Is it social recruiting, mobile, Talent Networks, etc.?  This can help you determine the sessions you attend, the practitioners you network with and the vendors you visit between sessions.

Second, is actively participating in the sessions.  This doesn’t mean asking questions out loud but taking notes and asking questions internally about how you can apply concepts to your company’s strategy.

For instance, if you were in a Military recruiting session.  Think through how this would affect your strategy.  How many people would you need to hire? Who would own this initiative? Would you have to divert budget from other initiatives? How would you measure success?  Would you have to purchase new technology to execute and measure?  All these questions are crucial to the learning process.

After you go to your identified sessions and think through how to apply them to your current strategy, talk to your team about what you’ve learned and share your epiphanies.   From here, sit down and begin figuring out an action plan of things that you can begin incorporating into your strategy.  Set deadlines and hard dates to when these actions will be completed.  While some of these strategies will obviously be longer term and require management level approval, focus on some of the lower tier action items to begin improving your strategies.

Improve your Strategy When You Get Back

The hardest thing about attending conferences is the unfinished work you have when you get back.  And getting through this work often gets you back into the daily grind of your job.  If you don’t make it a priority to use what you learned, you will most likely never make it a priority.

And then you’ll have to wait until the next conference to inspire you to improve your recruitment strategies.

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