There's a first time for everything right?

I had the privilege to attend the inaugural Employee Engagement Conference and Awards in New York City last Wednesday (June 17th) so was up bright and early to catch a 6:00 AM flight out of Miami into LaGuardia.  Upon arrival at the impressive Three Sixty° in the Tribeca neighborhood of the city, attendees were escorted to the 11th floor to check in and grab some breakfast before the event commenced. 

Around 10:00 we entered the main conference area where there were numerous round tables to accommodate 6-8 people at each. I like it when an event is set up like this as it provides ample opportunity to interact with fellow attendees rather than rows of chairs which always have a 'shut up and pay attention' feeling to them.

The event was emceed by Susan Hunt Stevens from Wespire and after some brief opening remarks from her and event creator Matt Manners, we were off and running.  Attendees were encouraged to post to social media using #EENYC2015...and it actually started 'trending'.

First up was Jamie Lawrence from HRZone.com who set the tone for the day in his opening presentation by emphasizing how a company's reputation is driven by its employees.  This led very well into Aaron Hurst's excellent keynote speech on The Purpose Economy where he spoke about the need for employees to have a calling and how "purpose driven people are better".

Indeed 'purpose' was an oft-used word in the morning sessions as Joaquin Roca (Scaffold) and Kim Abel (Maritz) both built on this in their respective presentations.  Joaquin spoke about building "happiness into your organization" while Kim reiterated something we should all know and do - "Just say thank you".

After a short refreshment break we were back to it with the first of two panel discussions. To be completely honest I thought that in both cases the discussions seemed to veer a little from their stated topics of 'Working with and improving organizational culture' and 'How can technology improve engagement efforts'. However, they still generated very interesting dialog between the panelists and were well received.

Lunchtime arrived and provided not only time to network with other attendees but also experience the rooftop dining area at the Three Sixty°. A beautiful day in the big apple (with temperatures hovering around 80c/27f) made the stunning open-air views of Manhattan even more appealing

Suitably nourished, we headed back to hear three excellent presentations on Getting Results from your Employee Engagement work from Jonathan Atwood of Unilever who stated that "Surveys are not granular enough", Melissa Chelminiak from Aveda and the highly entertaining and informative Terry Byrnes from Caesars Entertainment.

Following another short break and the second panel discussion, Jasmine Gartner gave an interesting perspective on how Engagement is not simply about employee Happiness.

As the afternoon sessions drew to a conclusion, Stowe Boyd delivered the second keynote of the day as he gave us his thoughts on The Future of Engagement. This guy gets it, as he spoke about diversity and uniqueness in the workplace and how "Employees are people, pursuing their own goals and ends". This is very much aligned with what we are already doing with An Even Better Place to Work and it was great to see others think along the same lines.

With the curtain coming down on the conference aspect of the day, it was time to move upstairs again for cocktails and the much anticipated awards ceremony.

There were 11 categories with a number of (very deserving) organizations shortlisted in each  - selected from online submissions a few months prior. In addition to the winners, at least one company was also 'Highly Commended' in each category which I thought was a good idea.

The winners were

  • The Employee Engagement Company of the Year - Ford
  • Best use of Technology in Employee Engagement - Sanofi Pasteur
  • International Project of the Year – The Red Cross
  • MVP Award – Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
  • Social Responsibility Project of the Year – Hotel Bel Air
  • Employee Engagement Project of the Year Award (Large) – Horizon Media
  • Employee Engagement Project of the Year Award (Small) – Squarespace
  • Employee Engagement Project of the Year Award (Non Profit) – ASPCA
  • The Reward and Recognition Program of the Year - Tata Consultancy Services
  • The Wellbeing Initiative of the Year - Caesar's Entertainment
  • The Internal Communications Award – FRHI Hotels and Resorts

Finally, after all the silverware had been handed out there was still plenty of networking time (and adult beverages) as the celebrations continued on the rooftop until around 8:00 PM.  Unfortunately I had to bolt a little early as I had to catch a flight back to South Florida...which coincidentally Matt Manners mentioned as a possible venue for next years event.

All in all this was an outstanding event and huge kudos to absolutely everyone involved - organizers, sponsors, speakers, etc...

I'm already looking forward to next year's event...and if it is in the Sunshine State, we'll welcome everyone with open arms.