Observations on #SHRM19- Continuing the Buzz

by Michael Haberman on July 26, 2019 · 0 comments

The most recent SHRM conference, #SHRM19, which was held in Las Vegas in June, was my eighth in a row. As an official member of the Blogger Squad, I was obligated to write about the conference. Unfortunately, I took some vacation and then the 4th of July holiday, and as a result, it has taken until now for me to sit down and write about my experiences at this conference. I have had several conversations, I stay up on reading comments in the official conference digest, and have paid attention to what others have written in their blog posts. Many of the blog posts from the conference can be found at  TheSHRMBlog.

Old-timer’s view

As an old-timer in HR I find that it can be easy to get down and dismayed about the state of the profession. It is easy sometimes to be the curmudgeon of the profession. However, I came away from this conference more encouraged than I have been to recently. In a conversation with Ira Wolfe on his podcast (which happened to be a very popular episode) he asked the question “What was the best thing you walked away with?” I hesitated for a minute, to which Ira’s cohost said to the effect “that silence is telling”. I said I was hesitating because I could not think of one thing, rather I said “I was pleased with the energy of the conference. I was glad to see so many energetic, inquisitive HR professionals.” Ira, who also fits in the “geezer” category with me, said he also felt a similar energy.

Creating better workplaces

The theme for the conference was “Creating better workplaces.” Of course, this includes the idea of inclusion. There was a powerful moment when many people of different ages, races, sexes, and more were brought on stage and the statement was made “This is what inclusion in the workplace looks like.” It was a very powerful statement.

Prison convict

In order to kick off this conference the opening “keynote address” was a question and answer session between Johnny C. Taylor, President of SHRM, and Martha Stewart of TV fame. I thought she was a great choice to lead off the conference given that she is female, an older worker, and has served a prison sentence. Here are some of the “nuggets” from her presentation:

  • When you’re through changing,  you’re through.
  • Ageism goes both ways- to the “old” and the “young”- key is for everyone, regardless of age, to focus on learning.
  • We’ve always paid creatives the same as business people. There’s no reason for them to be different.
  • “Being demanding is not a bad thing. It sets a tone, a work ethic.”
  • If you are replacing someone’s job with technology, help them find work. If #AI replaces certain jobs, train people for other jobs.
  • Women should stop “leaning in” and just go for it.
  • Organizations should pay attention to their older workers and think ways they can leverage their experience and the talent.
  • Forcing people to retire is a waste of talent. Organizations need the wisdoms of their old workers.
  • Keep accepting change, and be receptive about finding new changes. Treat everybody from coffee maker to your executive team with the same respect. Be curious in life.
  • Make sure your #employees stay current not only with your business, but in the world as well.
  • Getting people back to work – incarcerated, sick, older, those who took time off to spend time with family, etc

These are just a sampling of some of the things that were Tweeted out about Martha Stewart. She was amazed as the size of the audience and the audience seemed to like her message. Of course, not everyone got her message or the theme of the conference when they tweeted “Why do we have an ex-convict presenting to an HR conference?” Just shows that you can’t please everyone.

Coming next week—more about the conference.

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