Since 2004, a growing number of businesses in central Arkansas have discovered a reliable and effective resource for training their managers and supervisors thanks to a program created and operated by the West Central Arkansas Society for Human Resource Management.
Volunteer leaders with the chapter developed a day-long management training seminar that is held every August at the convention center in the famous resort town of Hot Springs, Ark. The event features a keynote speaker and five hours of concurrent sessions on topics that include hiring and firing, performance reviews and employee motivation.
For creating its management seminar, the Arkansas chapter was named a winner of the coveted Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Pinnacle Award in 2011. It was among seven professional chapters and two state councils that received the award on Nov. 18, 2011, during a ceremony at the SHRM Leadership Conference in Arlington, Va.
Nearly 70 SHRM-affiliated groups submitted applications for the annual awards, which are sponsored by ADP Inc. The winning organizations receive $1,000. Chapter presidents and state council directors receive a diamond Pinnacle pin; board members of the winning groups receive replicas of the pin.
Recognizing a Need
For years, members of the West Central Arkansas chapter had heard comments and complaints from business owners and from local executives about the lack of management training opportunities in the Hot Springs area. Companies that wanted training programs for their supervisors usually had to send them to Little Rock, about 100 miles away. Often, the time and expense of sending managers to training sessions in Little Rock was too much for small businesses, so many companies in the area opted to do without.
“This was a situation that our chapter members were very aware of,” said Tara Mauk Arthur, PHR, chair of the managers seminar committee. “And we decided that we, as HR professionals, were uniquely qualified and positioned to create a program that could address this problem and be a great resource to area businesses.”
While the seminar topics focus on many HR-related issues, the program is targeted to front-line managers and supervisors rather than HR professionals.
“Many of the managers who attend the seminar may have some HR-related duties in their job, but they are not HR practitioners,” said Arthur, who is the senior vice president of HR for Selected Funeral & Life Insurance Co. in Hot Springs.
Managers who attend the seminar come from organizations that vary in size, but Arthur said small- to mid-sized companies that have limited training resources for supervisors make up the bulk of attendees.
A Strong Start
The chapter launched the seminar program in 2004. It was held at the local community college in Hot Springs and drew 53 registrants.
“It started very small with just four sessions. I don’t think we even served a lunch—that was up to the individual registrants,” Arthur said. “But it still was well received by attendees, and we grew quite a bit the next year.”
After a few years, the seminar had grown enough that the chapter relocated it to the Hot Springs Convention Center, which made the event much easier to manage, according to Arthur.
“The community college was a great place to start, but the meeting rooms were spread out among several buildings,” Arthur said. “So once we had enough registrants and picked up some sponsors and exhibitors, we could afford the convention center rental fees, and it made much more sense logistically to hold it there.”
The chapter has kept the costs of the seminar low by tapping into local and regional talent to lead the training sessions. According to Arthur, local attorneys have been a great resource for presentations on employment laws and government compliance issues. She said that the Arkansas SHRM State Council and other SHRM chapters around the state have been helpful in identifying and recommending presenters.
“We don’t offer speaker fees, in order to keep our costs down, but there are a lot of very good presenters to choose from in our area who are happy to work with us,” Arthur said.
In August 2011, 261 managers and supervisors from Central Arkansas businesses registered to attend the event. The cost of registration for the seminar is $60, which Arthur said is a bargain when you compare it to the costs of other training programs and seminars.
In 2011, the managers seminar generated $8,800 in revenue for the chapter. Since its inception, the event had brought in approximately $50,000. This has allowed the chapter to eliminate dues for members who are national members of SHRM. According to Arthur, the $1,000 prize for winning the SHRM Pinnacle Award will be used to help pay any speaker costs for the 2012 seminar.
Arthur said that the seminar idea would be easy for other chapters to replicate and that several similar training programs have sprung up around the country.
“We are providing a very useful and cost-effective resource to employers in our area,” Arthur said. “Anytime you can help managers improve will in turn help area businesses become better workplaces, and then your entire community can benefit.”
More information on the managers seminar program is available from the chapter’s website and by using the chapter’s online contact form.
Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.