Virtual event planning is TOUGH. Getting people engaged and keeping their attention is even more challenging – unless you’re DirectEmployers that is. From live-streamed yoga to cocktail mixology and tough trivia, DirectEmployers 2021 Annual Meeting & Conference (DEAMcon21) had it all – including one of our best agendas filled with peer-to-peer sessions focused on sharing best practices, benchmarks, and honest information straight from practitioners themselves. Let’s take a look back at the highlights from the week, where we took attendees on a full-stream adventure!

Monday | Diverse Keynotes Galore!

Talk about a powerful way to kick-start not only our 20th anniversary celebrations, but also the start of DEAMcon21! When it comes to inspired conversation, our keynotes delivered ten-fold – and we began the conference with people at the top of their game, including a hearty welcome to returning attendees and new faces. Fun fact: 50% of this year’s attendees were new to DEAMcon! Next up, we welcomed Torin Ellis to the virtual stage to inspire action with diversity and inclusion practices.

After Torin’s impactful session we dove straight into a conversation with the newly appointed OFCCP Director Jenny Yang where she set the stage for what’s to come – including CSALs and the OFCCP audit methodology. We rounded out the day with some time with underwriters in our Demo Hall, a conversation about overcoming adversity and viewing disabilities as a strength with Breaking Bad star RJ Mitte, and an incredible tech panel, hosted by our very own Recruit Rooster and RocketBuild teams.

Tuesday | BIG Launches (Hello DE Academy!) & Expert-led Sessions

DE Academy Discount - DEAMcon21We went for gold and kicked off Tuesday with the big announcement of the relaunch of DE Academy – now featuring fresh new content on an accessible learning management system. View the courses currently available and get ready for an amazing Affirmative Action deep-dive session, brought to you by John C. Fox coming soon! It wouldn’t be an Academy launch without our faculty here in support, and Janet Fiore of The Sierra Group also joined the launch to discuss the DisabilityRecruiter Certification© and DisabilityEtiquette© For Everyone courses.

Next up, faculty member David Fram brought his amazing energy to our virtual stage with an incredible ADA update with fast-breaking developments on reasonable accommodations, all stemming from the one phrase, “How can I help you?” In addition, David is offering an incredible course in DE Academy to help you polish your presentation skills with the same energy and vibrancy he exuded during his DEAMcon21 presentation. View this course preview for a sneak peak into what the course will cover!

After a short break with underwriters, we continued our day showcasing recruitment marketing and candidate attraction by diving in to how client Frontdoor transformed the “curb appeal” of their career site to create an engaging environment for job seekers. Not only does Frontdoor have a brand spankin’ new career site, they also added the newly developed Talent Community for further candidate nurturing efforts. After virtual high fives went around, Gerri Allamby from Unilever took to the stage to share how to use real data at your fingertips to develop compliant D&I goals. Let’s just say this powerful speaker, gave us plenty to consider, and even a few ideas for the future.

After a long day of learning it was time to unwind with a custom mixology class, filled with cocktails and conversation led by Sierra Jackson and Jordan Hartman from Recruit Rooster. Attendees walked away with side stitches from laughing and a recipe for a cock-a-doodle mule! Let’s just say this crew knows how to have a good time!


Wednesday | “Tapping” Into Knowledge with Practitioner-driven Sessions

There’s no better way to clear your stress than yoga, and we began sessions with a flow for all levels! This led into our first session of the day which discussed how to tap into data insights for better DE&I efforts – hosted by our VP of AA/EEO, Tony Perkins! We continued the magic with a session focused on understanding applicant accommodations and engaging in the interactive process successfully. Member Ashley Valenzuela-Ruesgen brought so much insightful conversation to the table that she left the audience spellbound!

One short break with underwriters later, and we welcome Bill Baker to the stage to discuss best-in-class university relations programs – and he delivered by sharing his own story of how he began his career at J.R. Simplot as an intern himself. The day ended with an incredible disability inclusion conversation hosted by Susanne Bruyerre from Cornell University. She shared incredible research statistics compiled by both Cornell and partner EARN, and provided attendees with an overarching framework for inclusion and how to improve retention outcomes.

Thursday | Analytics, Veterans & Diversity Themed the Day

Beginning day four of the conference was a peek behind the curtain at how Member Oracle uses diversity analytics to measure outreach effectiveness, and a full look at how they utilize tools like DirectEmployers Partner Relationship Manager (PRM) and Partner Library to assist in their efforts. Fan-favorite, Haley Moss followed up with an exceptional conversation about the language of disability inclusion, further cementing her life experiences and helpful tips shared with employers to continue the conversation in their own organizations and how to look at things through a disability-inclusive lens.

After chatting with conference underwriters, attendees packed the house for a fireside chat with retired Army veteran Jerry Elam from ArcBest and Denae Bell from ABF Freight. Not only did they shed light into their own practices, they shared their President’s passion for developing a driving training program for active duty and transitioning veterans to help kick-start their careers. So many incredible learning opportunities had attendees scrambling to take notes on re-employment and veteran hiring! Before closing out the day, our last keynote of DEAMcon21, Laila Ireland, took the stage to share her life experience as a transgender service member and how her focus has shifted since that point as she now continues to her path as an advocate for the LGBTQIA community and transyouth communities. Laila shared with the audience her life intersectionalities of being a woman of color, transgender, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Latinx, raised Catholic, coming from a military family and background, a military spouse, and a veteran – all leading her down the path to where she is today!

After an enlightening conversation, Jason Ward from RocketBuild switched gears from Laila’s moderator to Happy Hour host – complete with tech talk and trivia! Let’s just say, this set of trivia questions elicited lots of chatter, fun conversation, and more than a few guesses from the lively audience.


Friday | A Little Namaste & A Look Ahead at Recruitment Practices

The last day of our conference began with an accessible yoga flow for a range of levels, and moved on to an interactive session on the future of recruitment practices led by DirectEmployers Member, Scott Sendelweck of Community Health Network. By incorporating Alexa technology and a look at how the pandemic has impacted recruiting, Scott set the stage to show the new wave of work trends and how AI would impact future actions. We then switched gears to hear from partner NASWA on connecting with veteran talent, and during this session Charlie Terrell and Lori Adams explored how employers can engage with the public workforce system to support veterans, the employment resources available for veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses.

The conversation continued with a real, raw conversation with Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist Christa Martin where she captivated the audience with her spot-on messaging surrounding employment for individuals with disabilities, stating at one point, “If you are not accessible, you are not inclusive.” Christa spoke about the importance of relationship-building and pushing past the uncomfortable to shape better business practices for all. Finally, DEAMcon ended with yet another powerhouse session from TEKsystem’s Inclusion and Diversity team on how they created initiatives and measurements to ensure strong integration, access, and upward mobility of the diverse talent within their company. Major kudos to this team for their hands-on program creation!

What’s the Secret Component of DEAMcon21?

If you build it, they’ll come – and that’s just what this year’s attendees did! DEAMcon21 was a success thanks to amazing content from our Members and partners, conference underwriters, and last but not least, our attendees. From rockin’ the activity feed with conversation, to engaging with presenters in sessions, we proved that learning is better in a community setting – and we were happy to provide the avenue to do just that.

DEAMcon21 Virtual

We may have closed the book on DEAMcon21, but the next chapter is already underway! Help us carry this momentum forward by submitting to speak at DEAMcon22! After all, a five-star luxury resort deserves your five-star luxury content…am I right, or am I right?

DEAMcon22 Call for Presenters

Thank you, DEAMcon21 Underwriters!

Your contributions and presence made our conference experience educational and engaging!

DEAMcon21 Underwriters
Jaime Costilow
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