Last week 350 of our Members, partners and guests gathered at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Washington for DirectEmployers 2018 Annual Meeting & Conference (DEAM18). Two and a half days of learning, 9 hours of networking and countless minutes of fun were intertwined into what was our best conference yet–and we’re still reeling from the highlights!

Take a look at this recap to see what you might have missed, or, if you were lucky enough to be in attendance, to relive the shining moments–and believe us, there were so many moments to share, we had a hard time narrowing it down.


Prior to the official start of the conference, attendees were treated to a special bonus session hosted by our partner, Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), the U.S. Department of Labor and Microsoft, as well as DE Training Academy sessions hosted by DirectEmployers staff and compliance experts. During these sessions, attendees explored best practices for making their websites accessible to people with disabilities, hot topics in OFCCP audits, developing AAPs, engaging students with disabilities, as well as tips for making the most of their DirectEmployers membership.

Always looking to create new experiences for our attendees, this year we added a barista to our conference making free specialty drinks each day during the conference–and back by popular demand was our Swag Store featuring items such as insulated DEAM19 water bottles and beach bags, super soft Seattle skyline t-shirts and DirectEmployers umbrellas!

A returning tradition from last year, we kicked off our conference with a presentation of the colors by a Seattle-based Color Guard and an exciting announcement from our career site solutions team regarding a new business venture. Our newest brand addition, Recruit Rooster, helps employers attract the right candidates through career site development, great content, attractive video, and original photography–stay tuned for more details!

Next up was our first keynote, OFCCP Director, Ondray T. Harris, who gave a powerful speech on the importance of building relationships between employers and the Department of Labor. Following his speech, he was kind enough to have lunch with our attendees before the first concurrent sessions began.

Later that afternoon, we honored our 2018 award winners for their contributions to the human resources industry, in various capacities. This year’s winners include:

  • WOW Award: Marilyn Mackes, Executive Director, National Association of Colleges & Employers (accepted by Matthew Brink, Assistant Executive Director, National Association of Colleges & Employers)
  • Breakthrough Award: Dana Deason, Manager, HR Policy & Compliance, ArcBest
  • Jennifer Seda Award: Beverly Curtis, Staffing Specialist/Recruiter, John Deere
  • Diversity & Inclusion Award: Chris Liakos, Manager, EEO Compliance & Diversity, Northrup Grumman Corporation
  • Partner Recognition Award: National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA)

Later that evening, we hosted our attendees for a networking reception in our Demo Hall where they could chat with connect with our conference underwriters to explore products and services at their disposal.

Day two featured a full day of learning, including workshops on AI, older workers, accessible technology, LGBTQ ERGs, student and veteran hiring, as well as a series of OFCCP Q&A sessions. One new addition this year, were two interactive sessions with our product development team where Members had the opportunity to better understand our development process and how we create the tools that make your job easier. This year we also added a Partner Lunch in which our attendees had the opportunity to enjoy lunch while networking and conducting valuable outreach with our non-profit diversity partners who help veterans, students and people with disabilities find meaningful employment.

Mid-afternoon we had another exciting announcement! Our staff threw on colorful t-shirts, sunglasses and beach balls and ran on stage for the announcement of our DEAM19 location: Naples, Florida!

The day ended with our final keynote presentation by Dr. Richard Pimentel, nationally renowned expert on disability management, job recruitment, job retention, Americans with Disabilities Act, and attitude change as he discussed the ability to make a difference by tapping into the qualities of leadership within. By highlighting his life story, captured in the movie “Music Within,” he focused on leadership not by what we know, but rather by who we are and what we do.

Ready to let loose after a long day, our attendees headed to Art Marble 21, for our evening social event–an 80’s themed party complete with games, billiards, karaoke, dancing and delicious food! We had so much fun seeing our staff, attendees and Board of Directors dressed in their 80’s best including neon, leg warmers and wigs. See for yourself in our DEAM18 photo gallery! {link to Flickr albums}

The final day of the conference was a short one, packed with more great concurrent sessions and one final general session focusing on disability hiring. This year’s conference was a huge success and we couldn’t have done it without our amazing staff, attendees, and of course, our conference underwriters. Thank you to everyone who helped make this conference special. We hope to see you all at DEAM19 in Naples next May – more details coming soon!

Kacie Clark
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