Held last week in Las Vegas, SHRM 2019 Annual Conference & Exposition was the largest event in the association’s long history. With over 20,000 HR professionals in attendance, there were 200 concurrent sessions designed to make workplaces better and change workplace culture. This year’s theme “Creating Better Workplaces,” as well as the many sessions I attended, have left me excited about the future of the workplace.
During the convention, SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor, SHRM-CP reminded us about the importance of the role we play in our organizations. “The HR profession is a unique position that drives performance and creates individual advocacy and education. Our profession allows us, as Human Resources practitioners, the opportunity to build a world of work and maximize people potential.”
I am returning to work “geeked up” and ready to share many great takeaways, as well as some fun swag I snagged from various vendors. Here are my top takeaways from this year’s conference that all companies should focus on this year.
It’s about “Brave Leadership”
There is always going to be a need to create strategic leadership programs. Convention speakers, like Mack Munro, provide a great template on how to develop programs that “Build Better Bosses,” but it’s not just about providing the typical skills and knowledge to manage people, it’s also about teaching those who “Dare to Lead” what brave leadership looks like.
We also learned through Brene Brown’s general session that courage is a teachable, observable, and measurable skill. “Brave leaders are never quiet about the hard things,” he says. They know how to have tough, yet respectful conversations, how to “embrace the suck,” and understand the importance of onboarding people on how to get back up, so they are not stuck in their setbacks.
Where can I find talent?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 7.4 million job openings, and with unemployment at 3.6%, the job market remains very competitive for hiring managers seeking top talent. With more vacant positions than unemployed people in the U.S., everyone is feeling the pressure of filling positions. Skilled candidates often have multiple offers before we even have a chance to interview them. The labor shortage has everyone asking, “How are we to succeed in this tight labor market?”
Author Dan Schawbel revealed one way: partnering and co-existing in a world made up of both machines and humans. Schawbel cites IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty’s declaration that “AI will impact 100% of jobs”. He continues to tell us that “the human element will never go away. HR will continue to manage the human workforce, but our biggest opportunity is to collaborate with information technology (IT) teams to manage the machines.”
Additionally, organizations are now being forced to find creative ways to close the skills gap, including opening the door to those that have been previously pushed aside. Many organizations are starting to hire veterans, older workers, workers with disabilities, and workers who were formerly incarcerated. This allows the talent pool to expand, which is great because talent can come from anywhere. It’s also about doing the right thing and giving qualified candidates the dignity of work. Companies should be less focused on age, gender, and other factors and more concerned with answering, “Can they do the job, and are they great to work with?”
Addressing loneliness, preventing burnout, & mental health awareness
I participated in several sessions that discussed these three important topics that influence employee engagement. Remote work is great because it allows employers to find talent wherever and it provides employees with flexibility. There is, however, a cost—lower team and organizational commitment. Once we lose that engagement, employees can check out. Additionally, when (remote or office) employees do not connect with other employees, it’s much easier to leave the workplace behind. When employees have friends at work, it’s much harder to leave because they feel as if they are leaving a family.
Additionally, employees are facing the occupational phenomenon of an “always on” work culture. “Burnout is a global issue and is also half the cause to all attrition,” revealed Schawbel. “It’s brought on an added level of anxiety and stress and influences who employees want to work for and how they will contribute. This type of culture is detrimental to productivity and could lead to health issues including mental health. Employers should recognize what causes burnout and aim to fix it, as it may cost them more over time if they don’t.”
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, many people either have a mental disorder or are touched by someone who suffers from one. With only 5% of employees going to HR to talk about mental health, we must find ways to rid the stigma and provide resources consisting of training and action plans. Blake Mycoski, CEO of Tom Shoes, shared the importance of his battle with mental health and reminded us that that we “cannot serve and be champions of people if we can’t take care of ourselves”.
Create a culture that values “Giving Back”
My final takeaway supports recruitment, retention, and engagement. It has been my experience, that organizations who value “giving back” create a stronger bond with employees. It can also create additional huge benefits, such as opportunities to reach and engage different job seekers, partners, and retain current employees. Mycoski tells us that “People want to work for, support, and see companies who make a positive difference in the world succeed”.
It’s clear after last week’s conference, Human Resources has evolved into more than just hiring and firing. HR is having a huge impact on the employee experience and the future of work. 162 million Americans go to work every day and each of them is affected by HR in some capacity. Through work, people gain dignity, self-worth, passion, and financial security. Their work experience is crafted by HR. By implementing policies centered around these four crucial areas, HR professionals can better position their company and it’s employees for future success, health, and happiness.