Total Rewards Day 1: Dual Speakers Debating the Generational Divide

I’ve attended a lot of conferences in Orlando, and I’ve attended WorldatWork Total Rewards quite a few times, but I’ve never attended a conference that led off with two keynote speakers.

No, I’m not talking about two speakers who each took their turn giving a keynote address. This was actually had two, different speakers who went back and forth giving the keynote presentation.

That’s how they kicked off  WorldatWork’s Total Rewards 2012 Conference & Exhibition Monday at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fl, touted by the organizers as the world’s largest gathering of total rewards professionals. 

Lynne Lancaster and Seth Mattison — multigenerational authors and experts who each bring their own generational perspective to the table — opened Total Rewards 2012 by talking about how the various generation in the workplace can not only enjoy each other, but also, can work together in harmony.

It was an interesting keynote approach, and certainly a lot better than hearing the Blue Man Group of something else like that make all kinds of noise banging away on drums at 8 in the morning.

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And, although I wasn’t sure it was going to work, the format grew on me — probably because Baby Boomer Lancaster and Millennial/Gen Y-er Mattison did a good job of bringing their own personal generational perspectives to the discussion of how our generational differences don’t need to divide us but instead, can be leveraged to move our organization’s ahead.

Was it an energizing discussion for so early in the morning? That depends on your perspective, of course, but it was insightful, somewhat entertaining, and a whole lot better than beating on a bunch of drums.

A few random thoughts from Total Rewards

  • A different way to run an exhibition hall.  I attend a fair number of conferences in the course of a year, and although I have made note of this before, it bears repeating. No other conference handles the exhibition hall the way they do it at WorldatWork’s Total Rewards. Rather than running it from 9:30 or 10 am straight through to 4 or 5 pm (as most all other conferences do), Total Rewards opts for a staggered schedule — open from 11 to 2 pm, then again from 4:30 to 6:30 pm. This makes it possible for vendors manning the booths, or, those who can only do business with exhibitors when the hall is open, to attend the concurrent sessions. This always makes me wonder: why can’t other conferences do it this way? I’ve never asked anyone at WorldatWork why they handle it like this, but it make it a lot easier to be able to both attend sessions AND walk the exhibit hall without fear of missing something. There’s something to be said for that.
  • Concurrent sessions I wished I could have attended Monday. I can’t attend everything no matter how hard I try, so here are some sessions I wish I could have sat in on: Transitioning From Chaos to a Dynamic Rewards Structure, “We Have Employees Where?” Effective Engagement Strategies for a Highly Distributed and Diverse Workforce, We’re All Adults Here: Considering an Unlimited PTO Program, and The Evolution of Google’s Equity Program.

    The Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center near Orlando.
  • A different kind of conference environment. Total Rewards seems to bounce back and forth each year between a more urban environment where attendees have  lot of walking around options outside the conference, and, a somewhat removed and contained conference environment. This year, the conference is here in the Orlando area at the Gaylord Palms, a self-contained hotel-convention facility that really isn’t near anything. You need to get in a car or a cab to get to go anywhere. That’s very different from last year when the conference was held in downtown San Diego, or next year, when it will be held in downtown Philadelphia from April 29-May 1, 2013. I’ve attended many events in both types of environments, so this is not a push for either one, but it does say that if you don’t like where WorldatWork Total Rewards is being held, well, it is likely to change dramatically the next time around.
  • Total Rewards Professionals Week. Here’s something else that is new this year: WorldatWork decided to make their Total Rewards conference the centerpiece of a new initiative touting Total Rewards Professionals Week from May 21-25. It’s meant to recognize “the many ways in which total rewards professionals attract, motivate and retain the talent that organizations need to be successful,” according to a press release. “Total rewards professionals impact the lives of millions of employees,” said Anne Ruddy, president and CEO of WorldatWork. “In the U.S. alone there are 119,000 compensation and benefits specialists who must deploy a spectrum of rewards to maintain an engaged and productive workforce at an affordable cost in an increasingly regulated environment. It is time to honor their work.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


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