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President's Message
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Over 400 HR professionals took a chance at luck and learning at the 2018 Tri-State SHRM Conference at Mohegan Sun April 29 - May 2. The conference boasted multiple learning tracks including CHRO, HRBP, D&I and HR Service Center, Total Rewards; there were sessions covering all areas of HR. Some attendees including myself bounced between multiple tracks based on varying interests. Sessions covered “Successful HR Technology Implementations”, “Trends in Compensation and Benefits”, “Effective Employee Relations: What's Hot! What's Happening!”, “Shifting Managerial Mindsets & Skills: Building Organizational Glue and Total Rewards Transformation” and “HR Metrics that Really Matter”.  There was definitely something for everyone!

Mohegan Sun is a vast and dynamic venue and although many recognize the venue for its slot and table games, we’d be remiss not to absorb the colorful history and culture of the Mohegan tribe. HR professionals were privileged to experience the authentic culture of the Mohegan tribe with multiple tribal performances, dancing, drumming and Native America cuisine. During the opening keynote and welcome reception we were graced with a message from Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, who became the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe in 2010. She is the first female Chief in the Tribe’s modern history and shared highlights of the Mohegan culture, roots, historical contributions to America, organizational leadership and community outreach.

Now imagine being tasked with a hiring goal of 1,900 in 17 years due to rapid and unprecedented growth, retirees, and military demand?!?! And your current average time to fill for positions 120+ days and you only have 3 HR team members. What do you do? Where do you start? Wowzers!  Maura M. Dunn, VP of HR & Administration at Electric Boat candidly discussed how she has leveraged her career experiences (which didn’t start in HR) to bridge the gap between HR and operations. The power tool that she uses to maneuver complex and rapid change is collaboration; one of the secrets to increase HR’s organizational value. Our session with Maura was not only motivating but also newsworthy since Electric Boat’s expansion made the front page of the Hartford Courant the next morning. Only at a SHRM Conference would HR Professionals gain early and first-hand access to headline-worthy information on the future of Electric Boat and its impact on Connecticut’s economy and workforce.

Mohegan Sun tags itself as “A World at Play” and although HR Professionals are renowned for adding value to organizations one strategic decision at a time, we also know how to play almost as hard as we work. And who better to have fun with than our fellow peers! Many kudos to the conference organizers who achieved a great balance of laughing and learning throughout the entire conference. From golfing, a ropes course, scavenger hunts and competitive cake decorating; many attendees took advantage of the thrills and team-building Mohegan Sun had to offer.

Some attendees, specifically myself and fellow HRACC South Board Member, Denise Mangano, (insert smirk-faced emoji) left with bragging rights as winners of the competitive team cake decorating contest hosted by Carlo’s Bakery with our confection masterpiece. Our multi-symbolic winning cake had an “HR Measures Up, HR Rules, Increasing HR’s Value” theme.  Conference attendees danced with Pirates (you had to be there for this one #insider), zip lined in the outdoors, enjoyed blissful mini-massages, indulged in Krispy Kreme snack breaks and learned tips to win at craps with Casino 101 training. 

It was rewarding to absorb relevant and significant HR knowledge but it was oh-so refreshing to take a mental break from the workplace roulette we encounter on any given day. I came back to the office refreshed and motivated, ready to continue my pursuit of HR Excellence. Special acknowledgements go to our HRACC members who measured up and attended this wonderful professional development event.


Organizational Excellence Achiever and Cake Boss Diva,

Orlena Cowan-Bailey, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
HRACC Chapter President

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