SHRM 2012 Annual Conference

SHRM 2012 Annual Conference

With more than 650 exhibiting companies, the SHRM Expo is the largest trade show dedicated to human resource management products and services and is always a centerpiece of the SHRM Annual Conference. There were 45+ exhibitors selling background screening and 31 of those limited their business primarily to background screens.

The mood was very upbeat with everyone extremely pleased with the quantity and the quality of traffic to their booths. So, not only did they see a lot of people on the exhibit floor but a healthy portion of those they talked with were either decision makers or doing research on behalf of the decision maker at their employer (Note: This feedback was in opposition to one top sales manager who at the beginning of the show felt that only 1 in 100 were decision makers).

Companies are spending the money to be proactive regarding HR and they are seeking better solutions to their background checking challenges. The paid attendance was reported by SHRM as 15,800 plus the 4200 personnel with the 702 exhibitors or a total of 20,000 (2011: 13,800 plus 4500 exhibitor personnel and others for a total of 18,300. 2010 numbers of16,400).

As another confirmation of the importance of background checks to this audience, SHRM had Les Rosengive two presentations at the conference: International Background Checks and Top Trends inBackground Checks.

Although, NAPBS was not an exhibitor this year, I sure saw those NAPBS member signs in the booths ofthe background screeners! They consider this an important marketing tool.

EEOC. One of the hot topics was the EEOC guidelines and how CRAs were responding. I happened to bein one CRA’s booth when a prospect stopped to talk. She asked how they were viewing the guidelines andthey gave a non-answer answer and she went on to say that they have 11 facilities with 4000 employees and one of their facilities was visited by EEOC the previous weekand one of the things they wanted toreview was their hiring policies compared to the EEOC guidelines.

She did think that the EEOC visit was prompted not by the issuance of the guidelines but because they have a union organizing effort at that plant and the union may have alerted the EEOC to prompt their visit. Regardless, this issue is on the table at HR.

Now, a key point: Warning: this is a repeated message:

  • The issue of HR being dissatisfied with their current CRA was a common theme expressed by everyone I talked with at the conference. Pay attention now: I have been doing the SHRMconference for 17 years and I cannot remember any such conference where this was not thetheme! If you own your company, are a CEO, COO or Chief Sales Officer, you have to askyourself: “Why are so many HR people unhappy with their current vendor?” Better yet, ask your existing customers.
  • People were not shopping price, they were shopping service and turn around time. Satisfyingthese needs is how I built my background screening company in the ‘90s and is exactly whatdrives growth in successful companies today. You have to think of yourself as being in a service industry. Sure, you sell data; sure, you sell information; sure, you have to be (reasonably)competitive with pricing; but when all is said and done, if you have the accuracy and you havefast turnaround time, the customer is satisfied. If your customer has an issue and calls yourcustomer service department, they should be able to get an answer right then (not tomorrow) from someone who is empowered to satisfy them. This is no different than how you would wantto be served by your vendors.
  • Here is a good exercise: check out the service at Symantec or ATT or Dell or the SocialSecurity Administration, and then do the opposite. Mystery shop your own company, even for the basics. How well does it work when you call in? Is the phone system easy to navigate? Doyou have to wait on hold? If you don’t have the proper extension for someone, how easy is it to get to him or her? Once you get to them, do they know how to resolve your issue? Then, pretendyou are a prospective client. How easy is it to get to someone by phone that can sell you and get you signed up? How easy is to do this from your website? Don’t let these basics stand in the way of turning a prospect into a customer.

OK, enough preaching. In addition to good service, I was told that attendees had a lot of inquiries aboutsocial media searches, international searches and assessments. There were even a couple of inquires about CBSV (Consent Based SSN Verifications). Do you have these services in your arsenal? If not, call me.

Everyone I talked to said their sales are up, and up very nicely from last year. Several are claiming increases of over 35%. These fast growth companies are those that invested in sales personnel, marketing dollars, technology, improved quality of their data suppliers to reduce aggravation at the end user, reduced data acquisition costs in order to remain competitive, with a commitment to fast service and strong customer service departments.

Even with 30 or so more-or-less pure background companies exhibiting, ranging in size from a half million in sales to hundreds of millions of dollars, some notable names were still absent. Sure this is an expensive endeavor, but where else do you have the chance to talk to thousands of potential buyers? Where else can you meet your clients face-to-face? Where else can you see how your competition is marketing?

Where else as a senior manager can you hear your customers’ feedback (aka complaints or praise)? What other venue gives you the chance to juice up your sales staff? Where else can you see me walking up to your booth?  And, no I do not get a referral fee from SHRM.

Looks like 2012 and 2013 will continue to be great years for our industry.