Lessons Learned from the SHRM Annual Conference

July 17, 2017 in
By Stacy Cook, Jacob Flinck, Megan Coleman, and Emily Winick

It was only one month ago that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) kicked off its Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA. In our passion and zeal for the latest and greatest in the world of HR, members of the FMP team flew to New Orleans to attend. In addition to beignets and catching up with colleagues and clients, the team took away a wealth of learning from the numerous concurrent sessions. Below is a summary of some of our biggest takeaways and how we think they might help you.

Stacy’s Takeaway from The Neuroscience of Bias

Organizations understand the need for a diverse workforce and are investing to achieve it. And yet, progress is far short of where it should be, despite good intentions. In his extremely engaging session, David Rock explains how new research in neuroscience suggests that this discrepancy has to do with the very conceptual foundations of traditional bias training programs. Some of the more interesting (and shocking) statistics he shared include:

  • When you talk to someone in your in-group, you process their words in the same part of your brain that you process your own thinking. In this way, you process their words almost as though it was your own thoughts
  • Every inch of height is worth about $782 more in salary thanks to bias
  • If your conscious mind was a cubic foot in size, your subconscious mind is the Milky Way by comparison

The bottom line is that bias isn’t an issue of motivation. You can’t will it away or simply put together a training on what not to do. Instead, it is important to focus on how teams make decisions and the processes that catch and mitigate bias.

The Takeaway: Think hard about whether training is the most meaningful part of your diversity and inclusion plan. Spend some time looking at your processes to see if you are building in ways to avoid the pitfalls of bias in decision making.

Jacob’s Takeaway from The Innovator: The Employee You Most Need

Did you know that most companies list innovation as a critical factor for success, but only 14% of companies actually think they are good at it? In the session The Innovator: The Employee You Most Need, Mike Mitchell, reviewed the STEP Process (Select, Trust, Engage and Propel) for identifying potential innovators, developing them, and unleashing them to innovate within your organization. The session also emphasized the roles supervisors need to take to help cultivate the innovators. These steps included:

  1. Empowering employees to take risks,
  2. Engaging employees as a problem-solver and joint creator (and not just a supervisor); and
  3. Providing purpose by defining broad strategy and vision for innovation.

The Takeaway: Consider how much your supervisors are instilling a culture of innovation. Are you giving them the tools they need to have high quality conversations with employees that engage them in problem solving? If not, you might consider creating some.

Megan’s Takeaway from Building the Case for ROI That Employee Engagement Drives Business Results

The session, led by Bob Kelleher was a fascinating look at the ways HR professionals can show why time and money spent on employee engagement is worthwhile. A core focus of this session was how employee engagement is impacted by a combination of work and life events. As such, leaders are called to action to

  • Be more empathetic (the #1 top-ranked leadership trait)
  • Create opportunities for open communication
  • Maintain a perspective that engagement levels change day to day.

The session also emphasized that HR leaders should connect employee engagement to productivity and profitability while informing future business decisions. Click here for Mr. Kelleher’s video recap of the session and information on employee engagement trends.

The Takeaway: Supervisor-employee relationships matter. It is critical that supervisors treat employees with respect and appreciate the whole package of what they bring to work. Make sure your organization values this and expects these kinds of interactions at work.

Emily’s Takeaway from Influence Emotion to Motivate Action

Despite being the last session on the last day of the conference, one of the most interesting and engaging sessions I went to was Influence Emotion to Motivate Action: Communication Techniques to Engage Any Audience, presented by G. Riley Mills of the Pinnacle Performance Company. An overarching theme of the presentation was that the burden of engagement lies with the presenters/speakers. To do this, speakers need to understand who their audience is, the way they want them to feel, and how the way they deliver content will impact them. With more than 90% of information that the audience perceives coming from visual and other non-verbal cues, it’s critical to understand how body language and tone of voice conveys different messages.

One example the presenter gave was to model a neutral, relaxed stance and ask the audience how he came across. With his arms by his sides, shoulders down, and back straight, audience members said he seemed “confident”, “credible”, and “present”. When he shifted his weight to one foot and slouched his shoulders a bit, audience members said he seemed “arrogant”, “bored”, and like a “slacker”. All of these impressions came across in 2-3 seconds, and these small changes made a drastic difference!

Some other tips that were shared included: 1) stay mindful of the direction your torso faces, as that conveys where your attention and interest is directed; 2) use open gestures, like calling on someone using an open palm rather than pointing a finger; 3) avoid verbal fillers (e.g., “um”, “you know”, “uh”) and hedging language (e.g., “kind of”, “sort of”) because they signal uncertainty; and 4) re-engage your audience every 5-8 minutes using techniques like changing speakers, soliciting feedback or opinions from the audience, presenting a new visual aid, or telling a story or anecdote.

The Takeaway: Everyone has the ability to command a presence in front of others. But, like most things, it takes practice and hard work. If influence is important in your line of work, consider holding a program to help your employees build these skills and then watch as your teams become more successful.

Stacy’s Essential Takeaways from Content Curation: How to Get More Impact from Your LMS

Ok, it might be a bit shameless but I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to showcase some of the things I thought were most impactful from our own session on Content Curation. Content curation is a new learning content strategy that organizations can use to get more impact from the content they already have. The session focused on how much information exists and is being created by the day. Rather than having our instructional designers constantly build new training, we should spend our time curating the training we already have. When organizations do this well, they get a huge amount of value from a fairly small amount of investment. Click here for Stacy’s video recap of the session.

The Takeaway: Stop building more and start doing better with what you have. Reach out to Stacy Cook for more information and resources you can use to build a content curation strategy in your organization.

Getting Ready for Next Year

SHRM’s Annual Conference is always such an important industry event. Next year’s conference will be held in Chicago, IL. We just got word that the keynote speaker will be Malala Yousafzai, co-founder of the Malala Fund and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. FMP will be there… will you?