The theme of the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference, and one that manifested in a number of ways throughout the course of the four days. The keynote speakers touched on it. Many of the concurrent and Smart Stage sessions reinforced it. But the question is, did the HR professionals that attended walk away ready to assume a transformational mindset?
I found it encouraging that by design the programming of SHRM Annual seemed to promote the idea of transformation. Of course the keynote speakers supported the idea, as you would expect they would; any good keynote will bring the theme of the conference into their message in some way. Robin Roberts encouraged us to be grateful for what we have, but never stop striving for the next thing, for something bigger, and encouraged us to put ourselves in position for great things to happen. Tom Friedman focused on our hyper-connected world, and how that changes not only how we work as HR professionals, but how that fundamentally changes our workplaces, the expectations of our employees, and the necessary skill sets for success going forward. And David Novak talked about the need for HR professionals to start thinking and acting like marketers, that we are the keepers of the message of what it means to work for our companies, perhaps a mindset shift for many.
But beyond the messages of the keynotes, I also found it encouraging that many of the concurrent sessions focused on topics intended to facilitate a transformational mindset. Sessions like Jason Lauritsen’s “HR as Social Architect” where he discussed the idea of building and harnessing not just the human capital of our workplaces, but also the social capital of our workforces in an effort to leverage the power of the collective. Jessica Miller-Merrell discussed how we can use social media as a low or no cost way to engage and communicate with our employees. And Trish McFarlane and Steve Boese demystified the process of working with HR technology vendors to effectively select and implement the right solutions to make our jobs more efficient. All of these sessions had good sized audiences, which validates that HR pros have an appetite to learn not just about how to deal with the tactical issues that we face day to day, but also about these more transformative topics.
One of the biggest changes to SHRM Annual programming this year was the addition of The Connection Zone, and specifically the Smart Stage. Now I may be a little biased since I was a speaker on the Smart Stage myself, but the concept itself was intriguing, and yes, a bit transformational for SHRM Annual….fifteen to eighteen minute presentations on a variety of actionable topics, programmed together in groups of three so that attendees could get a sampling of a variety of information within a one-hour timeframe, complete with Q&A with the speakers afterwards. And many of the topics presented were focused on technology, discussions of current trends, or predictions for future trends. I found myself migrating back to the Smart Stage numerous times throughout the course of the conference for the opportunity to soak in some ideas quickly and efficiently. Perhaps this was the beginning of a shift in the way we present information in conference settings?
Though there’s still a lot of work to do to get us ready to handle the changes in our workplaces that are coming (and in some cases already here) as a result of advances in technology and the hyper-connected and transparent world in which we now live, I walked away from the conference excited about the shifts that I saw, and excited to help promote that transformational mindset shift among my colleagues and peers. As a profession, I think we are beginning to take the right steps. The question remains, how many of us as a collective body of professionals are ready to join in and make that shift? Will you join in the shift?