Future Friday: Lessons from the SHRM conference

by Michael Haberman on June 23, 2017 · 3 comments


Learning is the challenge for HR today.

I have just returned from the SHRM17 conference that was held in New Orleans. With hundreds of sessions and over 17,000 attendees it was a busy time. I looked for themes while attending sessions, conducting interviews, and visiting vendors. Naturally compliance was a major issue, as it always is. Vendors were interested in showing their software, pay systems, engagement systems or whatever. But the main theme I heard in all of this was learning.

Learning is important

Ryan Estis, in his Rethinking HR presentation, said that the biggest message for HR is learning. He asked the audience to think about “what will you do back at your business as a result of what you learn at the conference?” He further said that research has shown that teams stop growing when leaders stop learning. Estis says that five hours a week has to be scheduled for self-improvement. I agree with him.

Several of the keynote addresses also stressed the importance of learning. Learning from your mistakes. Learning what your teams need. Learning how to select your team. All these thing require HR leaders to be on a constant quest of learning.

Machines are learning too

Gary Kushner told us that one of the five global trends that will affect HR is machine learning. Kushner told the audience that we need to prepare for a new model and we need to determine how people and machines can interact because that interaction may require training and retraining new workers.

After listening to Kushner’s presentation I have the opportunity to meet with Moritz Sudhof, who is a Senior Director and Principal Data Scientist at Ultimate Software. In an earlier blog post, Future Friday: Letter to vendors at #SHRM17, I asked for vendor to tell me how they were using AI in HR. Micole Kaye of Ultimate Software then connected me with Sudhof. In Ultimate’s UltiPro Perception product they use machine-learning algorithms and  natural language processing to make it easy to survey your workforce and gain real-time analysis of employee feedback and sentiment. By using surveys the Artificial Intelligence can interpret the answers give and the language used to give better insight into how employees really feel about their work.

The good news is that this data, in general terms, can also be used to help smaller companies overcome the challenge of not being able to collect their own data to qualify as “big data.” I will write more in this at a later date.

Everyone there to learn

The good thing about going to a SHRM conference is that everyone is there to learn something. It is good to see a profession that is dedicate to improving itself and the number of professionals seeking knowledge. Sessions were packed and many had to have overflow spaces. One attendee, Olga Ershova from Keywords Studios, was there with a thirst for learning. She said she could not get to enough sessions. As an old dog in HR it is encouraging to find younger members so thirsty for the opportunity to learn.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Micole Kaye June 23, 2017 at 9:18 am

Mike – it was so nice to see you at SHRM this year. Thanks for stopping by the booth and sharing this great post. Can’t wait to see you at HR Tech this year! 🙂

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Gary Dumais June 24, 2017 at 10:22 pm

Thanks for the informative summary of this year’s SHRM conference! It’s nice to see the industry keeping-up with innovations, both in the marketplace and in society as a whole. And I couldn’t agree more; learning, adapting, and evolving are key for keeping pace with change, especially as we transition beyond the information age.

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Michael Haberman August 10, 2017 at 11:59 am

Thanks Gary.

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