The State of HR: 5 Important Lessons from the SHRM Conference - Netchex

The Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) annual conference is a big deal. Like, a really big deal for HR professionals and companies of all sizes.

This year’s event was as big as ever, especially on the heels of a COVID-hindered few years. Held in New Orleans over four jam-packed days (June 12-15), the event included:

  • Over 16,000 HR professionals and business executives in attendance
  • More than 600 exhibitors—from payroll and HR software to pet insurance and gift giving 
  • Over 200 educational sessions covering a wide array of HR-related topics

Since the SHRM Conference was hosted in New Orleans—aka Netchex’s own backyard—of course, we had to do it big. We attended the conference to connect with HR professionals, current clients, and technology partners, as well as spread the word about how Netchex makes “Payroll and HR Big Easy.”

The underlying message of the SHRM Conference

The tagline for the SHRM conference was “Cause the Effect.” And the running theme throughout the week was facilitating change based on the increased expectations of employees, employers, and recruits. 

To emphasize the theme, SHRM’s CEO, Johnny C. Taylor Jr., posed a question to all HR professionals: Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?

“Thermometers simply measure the temperature—they tell you what the current temperature is. Thermostats, on the other hand, change the temperature. There will always be a role in HR for thermometers as we collect important data and workforce insights, but our highest and most valuable contribution to our organizations going forward will be how effectively we change the temperature by influencing the hearts and minds of our people for mutual benefit.”

5 Key Takeaways from SHRM Conference

With this theme in mind, here are our most important takeaways from the conference and how you can apply them in your career and at your company.

1) Remote/hybrid/flexible work isn’t going anywhere

One of the biggest changes to come out of the past few years is the widespread prevalence of remote work, hybrid work, and flexible schedules.

READ: Finding the Balance: How to Create a Hybrid Work Environment

The question has shifted from how do we make remote/hybrid/flexible work possible to how we maximize our HR efforts in these new work environments. What do we do to improve the employee experience even in a virtual work environment? How do we ensure employees are connected, heard, and engaged? How can we ensure all employees are welcome, safe, and happy?

LEARN: Minimizing the Loneliness and Burnout Associated with Long-Term Remote Work

Check out tips from Netchex on how to accomplish this in a remote/hybrid environment:

DISCOVER: What Is Windowed Work and Why It Could Be the Key to Your Remote Work Success

2) Employee experience needs more attention

The employee experience begins with a better onboarding process—something SHRM Conference guest speaker, Arianna Huffington expressed in her remarks. The onboarding experience is important for new employees in numerous ways, including:

  • Properly welcome new employees
  • Integrate new employees onto the team
  • Emphasize company culture
  • Initiate a development plan for new employees

LEARN: 10 Tips to Improve Your Onboarding Experience

Onboarding is, of course, just the beginning. A better employee experience means managing the entire employee lifecycle more effectively—from hire to retire. In addition to onboarding, there are several areas where HR needs to manage the employee experience, including:

HR technology enables employers to assign, track, and monitor data of various HR processes over time, as well as gives employees insight into their personal performance and progress through employee self-service portals

READ: Human Resource Management: How it Works, Main Objectives, and HR Technology

Improving the employee experience is also about creating happier and healthier employees. Ensure employees feel appreciated, and a sense of belonging through dedicated HR efforts, such work-life balance and diversity and inclusion.

DISCOVER: Improve Diversity and Inclusion with Your Learning Management System

3) Retention is more important than ever

One of the conference’s big buzzwords throughout the conference was retention. It was on everyone’s mind—and for good reason. The current job market has placed an even greater premium on not only recruiting, but perhaps even more important, retaining top talent.

The so-called Great Resignation has forced employers to prioritize retention strategies built around four main questions: 

  • What matters most to employees? 
  • What makes employees quit? 
  • How do you attract new employees? 
  • How do you convince employees to stay?

READ: The Future of HR: New Roles Emerge to Boost Engagement and Retention

The answers to these questions are multi-faceted and  not standardized. But there are several key places for HR to explore, including: 

4) Investing in training is critical

A major part of retention is creating a better environment for growth and personal development. Employees are more satisfied with their jobs when they see opportunities to develop new skills and advance their careers without looking for new employers. 

READ: Benefits of Using a Learning Management System to Promote Continuous Learning

With the right Learning Management System, you can help employees expand their skill sets, in addition to improving collaboration, communication, and ROI throughout the company.

DISCOVER: Seven Reasons Why You Need a Learning Management System

For supervisors and individuals with leadership potential, a Learning Management System allows the company to develop and explore that potential. Better training makes for better employees and even better managers.

5) Mental health concerns are growing

Attention to the mental health and wellness of employees is crucial to employee retention, job satisfaction, productivity, and overall success. Companies looking to improve company culture must invest in employee mental health—for employees and HR professionals alike.

  • Implement a wellness program and mental health benefits
  • Promote continual learning and development 
  • Provide sufficient PTO, leave, flexible schedules, and remote/hybrid work 
  • Offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) 
  • Promote a healthy, balanced approach to performance metrics

LEARN: How to Support Employee Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health and self-care are just as important for HR professionals. You can’t help others, if you can’t help yourself. 

“Mental health is what happens in the every day, and, as HR teams, you should be aware of that,” Huffington said in her SHRM Conference remarks. “Stress is unavoidable, we know. But preventing accumulated stress is something people can take care of.”

Final Thoughts on SHRM Conference from the Netchex Staff

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