The following blog post was written by Francene Taylor, Director of Resourcing at IHG and member of the DirectEmployers Association board of directors.

So there I was, at the world famous San Diego Zoo, feeding a grape to a Binturong. I’ve attended DEAM [DirectEmployers Annual Meeting & Conference] for several years and always have novel experiences and new learning, but feeding a Binturong (pictured left) – well, that ranks pretty far up. I also got to meet Mary Lou Retton (yep – that one – the one that scored the perfect 10 and won the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics!) Inspiring and energizing, her keynote address made an impression on me that will last a very long time.

The annual DirectEmployers Association event is the one conference I look forward to the most each year. It’s a time to connect in person with valued colleagues across industries, a time to make new contacts and grow my network and a time to learn…new ideas, new approaches, new solutions. It gives me a chance to talk to really smart people about things like compliance, employer branding, the role that culture plays in recruiting and selection and reminds me that there’s a lot of really good stuff being done by leading employers. This year, DEAM13 taught me quite a bit, including:

  • the depth and breadth of services and support available from state workforce agencies
  • expanding recruiting outreach to even more diversity sources
  • that the dot jobs universe is growing exponentially both domestically and internationally, and is becoming a reality
  • that WOWing candidates and hiring managers is in the details, such as Janus Capital’s foodie gift bags in candidates’ hotel rooms (pictured right)
  • a little more clarity on VEVRRA and the Final Rule (never pass up the chance to “Ask an Expert” when it comes to compliance!)
  • that Mary Lou Retton is a great keynote speaker and that gymnastics is the only sport where yelling “Stick it” to someone is a good thing

Before visiting the world famous San Diego Zoo at this year’s conference, I’d never heard of a Binturong. Now I know that Binturongs are also called Bear Cats, that they smell like buttered popcorn (really), and they live in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. Before becoming an active and involved member of DirectEmployers, I was still sending jobs to the various state agencies by hand, wasn’t thinking of the candidate experience as the guiding star of our recruiting efforts, had never heard of the “.jobs” top level domain and was using the phrase “Stick it” in a much less, um, supportive way.

DEAM13 is over, I’ve returned to the office and I’ve brought back some great new ideas to incorporate into my organization. I met several new contacts and been blown away by what they’re doing at their companies (Hi Anna and Daniel – keep on blazing new trails at REI!) and have pages full of useful information on how to amp up our search engine applicant traffic, create a stronger partnership with our state workforce agency and new ways to reach out and engage talent via social media channels.

In 2014, the DirectEmployers Association conference will be in March – this will be the new annual time for the event. We’ve listened to our members who’ve said having it earlier in the year makes it easier to plan the travel and less likely to conflict with other conferences. This means I have less than 5 months to wait til DEAM14 and more great ideas and connections. I can hardly wait. Meanwhile, I’ll implement the recruiting and compliance ideas with my team and make use of my new Binturong knowledge in the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Special thanks to Francene for sharing her experience. Start your DEAM14 experience now by visiting We’re currently accepting speaking proposals through the first week of December. DEAM13 presentation archives are available to Members only in the Pipeline and photos are available on our Flickr page.

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