Emerging Leaders Initiative Uses Fun Approach to Networking

News Updates
 
Bowling and karaoke, wine and beer tastings, game nights.
 
The Philadelphia regional chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (PSHRM) puts a fresh, fun spin on networking for college students and new graduates, and their efforts are paying off.
 
The Emerging Leaders Initiative program won PSHRM a Pinnacle Award in 2013, making it one of nine chapters and two state councils that SHRM and ADP Inc. recognized for outstanding work. Chapters of similar size competed against one another and were evaluated on whether their program served the HR professional, advanced the profession or enhanced the SHRM community.
 
The Pinnacle Award is the highest achievement that SHRM state councils and chapters can attain. PSHRM received a $1,000 prize from award sponsor ADP, a diamond pin for chapter presidents and state council directors, and a replica of the pin for its board members.
 
The 1,500-member PSHRM won in the mega/super-mega chapter division of the “Enhancing the HR Community” category.
Since its creation in 2009, the Emerging Leaders Initiative has increased its membership by almost 40 percent, seen five members of its committee join the chapter’s board and provided free career training to more than 300 people through its Career Development series. The committee has offered mentoring to young chapter members since August 2013 and helped raise more than $14,000 in revenue for the chapter.
 
Why They Did It
 
Students and recent graduates were not attending PSHRM events, despite the number of HR undergraduate and graduate-level chapters aligned with HR programs in the area—including three chapters that PSHRM sponsored.
 
Students didn’t think they fit in, explained Jameel Rush, PHR, program manager of leadership development at Aramark and a PSHRM board member. Seminars and workshops were not geared to students, who lacked the work experience to understand the context of the information and discussions offered at chapter meetings, according to the chapter.
 
PSHRM leaders were concerned about the lack of new blood because most members had less time to devote to chapter activities and leadership as they advanced in their careers, Rush noted.
 
How They Did It
 
A meeting between PSHRM leadership and its Scholarship Committee led to the formation of a 17-member Emerging Leaders committee, co-led by Rush and Erik Johnson, PHR, program manager for learning and development at Comcast and a PSHRM board member. The committee consists primarily of HR professionals with zero to eight years of experience, who represent the age range of potential new members Emerging Leaders was targeting.
 
The committee’s first event—a bowling night in a trendy Philadelphia area—centered around networking and presenting scholarship awards and attracted more than 60 people.
 
“We tried to have events that had fun incorporated into them, so once they got there, there was a way to relax and start to meet people through the activities,” said Rush, noting that students and recent graduates feel awkward and nervous at more formal networking events.
 
Cost to participants is minimal. For about $20, a student receives one or two drink tickets, a buffet dinner and admission to the activity, such as bowling. An event typically costs the chapter between $1,000 and $2,000. In the beginning, the committee broke even, but now it’s starting to bring in a modest revenue, according to Rush.
 
The event’s success led to other programming, drawing about 50 people each time. What started out as a single activity has grown into nine annual events. They include three free career development events open to all members. The Career Development is an outgrowth of a program the chapter had started years earlier for members in job transition. The revised program, held in the spring, began in 2011. Graduate HR programs in the Philly area serve as series sponsors, giving them “a nice forum to sell their programs,” Rush said.
 
Additionally, Emerging Leaders offers two networking socials for students, two mentoring events and two events that share best practices for student chapter leadership.
 
“Our mentor program is our pilot program,” Jameel explained in an e-mail. Mentees are students in a SHRM chapter graduating in 2014 from a partner school and who have participated in at least one HR internship. Mentors primarily come from the Emerging Leaders committee, but in the next school year they likely will include PSHRM board members and general members.
 
Two student chapters were formed as a result of the Emerging Leaders Initiative, and another student chapter is in the works, according to Rush and Johnson. Committee members serve as consultants to support the creation of those chapters.
 
The deadline for 2014 Pinnacle applications is Sept. 9, 2014. Winners will be announced at the SHRM Leadership Conference in November.
 
To read the original article on shrm.org, please click here