Category: #SHRM17

#SHRM17 A Full Day

And I mean a full day. For the record, I made it to the 7am session.

My focus for the conference was definitely learning as much as I could about transitioning my HR department and my own role into more of a proactive business partner instead of a reactive department that tends to operate a lot off requests or issues or problems, so this is what my day looked like in a nutshell:

From Vision to Transformation: Leading Through Change

The first session was a pretty big letdown. It wound up ending at 7:45am and it seemed like the speaker never even got past the surface of change. There were some pretty standard concepts that the speaker touched on: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a clip of a Lakers’ game that included a bunch of players pushing each other, and a brief rundown of what the different parts of the brain are called. The biggest takeaway was something that I think a lot of us might struggle with, especially when we want to keep people engaged or show our appreciation in either a tangible way or in some type of power trip for some reason. I think it’s something we understand and I think it’s valuable to reflect on things that we already know:

  • Incentive and threat rarely work in the long run. It’s easy to think both sides of that might help, but neither one really foster a feeling of trust or appreciation and that’s what a long term commitment is really about, whether it’s in the professional world or your personal life. In Human Resources, we focus on humans and that means we need to focus on them in their entirety. If you threaten or bribe your significant other or child to mow the lawn all the time, does it work forevermore? Sure doesn’t. Employees are people exactly like you, your leaders and your HR department. It’s important to remember that.

The ‘HOW’ of Spreading the ‘WHY’: Effectively Spreading Vision Throughout Your Organization with Randy Anderson¬†

I’ve been reading A LOT lately on how it’s important to explain the why to people. It’s easier for people to want to get on board when they know WHY they’re doing something and not just HOW to check things off a list. Makes sense, right? And as a person, it’s my own curiosity of WHY the heck are we doing this that gives me that extra push to knock things off checklist. If you think about it compared to the session right before this, it builds off of the stop threatening employees and stop trying to pay them off to get shit done. Just help them understand WHY they’re doing it. That’s not a lot to ask. My 2 year old asks WHY a million times a day. It’s annoying, but he sure does think it’s the greatest thing ever when I actually answer them. Win-win for both of us. Two key takeaways for me from this session:

  • If you asked your employees why the change, any change, was happening, what would they tell you? They’re likely the ones that will be answering questions from your external customers, their friends and family, or even new employees coming on board. If they don’t know the answer, this is how you know you’ve got some work to do.
  • Make the vision and goals of the organization a regular part of the conversation. I had a true sense of pride when Randy said this, because I feel like it is a regular part of the conversation where I work. It’s not one of those forced habits where your managers make you recite them every single day and chastise you because you don’t know them. For us, it’s because our employees feel like they exemplify our core values in what they do, at work and at home. I’m not completely naive in thinking 100% of our employees feel that way. I bet you could ask any one of our 540+ employees to name our core values and they could. As we go through big changes, it’s a good reminder to make sure those changes we’re making are also inline with our core values. And WHY they’re in line with our core values. It’s making sure they’re reminded of our values and why we do what we do on a regular basis.

Disrupt HR! Approaching HR, Talent Acquisition (and Your Career) in a Whole New Way with Jennifer McClure

I can’t even begin to do this talk justice. I’ve followed Jennifer on Twitter forever and, awesomely enough, actually met her in person right outside of my last session. Twitter is magic and I don’t really feel like that’s a stretch of the imagination.

I try really hard to take notes during these sessions because it makes better sense to me in the end when I start reflecting on what I heard. Didn’t happen during this session. At all. The word disrupt gets thrown around a lot right now and it doesn’t always make sense to do that in some aspects. It does in HR. At least for me. It also matches up to everything I’ve had in my head ever since moving from an agency recruiter role into an actual HR department a little over four years ago. I loved every single second. It just MADE SENSE and there’s also more for me to put together if I can get it all out of my head.

Equipping New Managers for Success: Tools for Creating High Performance Work Environments with Alan Fine

I think it’s a challenge with any company when it comes to making sure new managers are set up for success. Whether we hire people that have that management experience in the outside world on their resumes or we promote someone up through the ranks because they’ve been strong performers, we aren’t putting either of those people in good place without giving them the tools and knowledge they need before they get too deep in the weeds of everything else that goes along with a leadership role.

  • SPORTS ANALOGY. I don’t know how many times there are sports references in HR conferences for some reason. It’s certainly not due to the high level of males in the field – maybe it’s to attract them to our luxurious lives in HR? The actual point was something that really jumped out at me. In any team sport, the coach is the one that gets fired if the team is performing poorly, even if it’s just one person on the team that’s tanking it. In business, the player (or the employee for those of you that are already lost on this sports analogy) gets fired due to their performance/poor results. Why is it different? Professional athletes have gigantic 8-figure salaries with multi-year contracts, so is a coach really all that important when that’s the case? I think it tells me that in the business world, we think employees are easier to replace than managers. That’s probably true in a lot of cases. It doesn’t make it right.
  • SayDoCo. I love this and it’s easy. Say what you’ll do. Communicate when you can’t. Do what you say. Add them all up and it’s pure,¬†unadulterated accountability, my friends. When we’re accountable to our teams and to ourselves, we create that feeling of trust that leaders need early on. Now we’re advancing in those five levels of leadership, am I right, John Maxwell?
  • Fire, Focus and Faith. We can give leaders (and employee, too, really) all of the knowledge in the world and provide them with all of the actual training in the world, but without these three components, there’s going to be a struggle. All three of those things enhance someone’s knowledge. If someone lacks faith or belief, it leads to insecurity. If they like the fire or the energy, it’s looked at as indifference. If there’s a lack of focus or attention, inconsistency is going to be right there.


And then there was an evening of hanging out with HR people for like six hours and it was phenomenal. I’m the type of person that will find a way to get out of professional networking any way I can, but this wasn’t professional networking and I think that’s what made it less uncomfortable for me. It was just people hanging out with people and that’s a concept I haven’t really run into in my minimal attempt at professional networking. It gave me a fresh mind on how network doesn’t HAVE to be and I’m so grateful for that.


#SHRM17 The Conferencing Commences

I sat my alarm for 7am even though the conference didn’t technically start until 12:30. What kind of savage would I be if I didn’t take advantage of our hotel’s free breakfast? It didn’t disappoint. They had Fruit Loops. Totally worth getting up that early. I knew I had a couple hours to burn before I had to be anywhere, so I took two hours to myself to walk aimlessly through the French Quarter.  Those two hours led to a whole bunch of sunshine in my face and being able to really soak in the absolute beauty in the streets of New Orleans. I also got hustled by a guy named David who tried to polish my canvas shoes with something that looked like lotion. It’s all good – he gave me some beads and I gave him a handshake. 

I headed back to the hotel to change, pack up the backpack and head to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for the first session of the day. There were shuttles that were scheduled to pick everyone up from their hotels for the duration of our conference, but I don’t think they were quite ready to roll on Sunday morning. We were lined up at our designated bus stop by 11:30 in order to get there in time for the 12:30pm session, but after waiting 45 minutes and having two buses drive by that were already full, we realized that wasn’t going to happen. We buddied up with some other couple that was waiting inline and dropped a cool $11.50 for a ride instead. We still didn’t make it in time, but we were able to grab lunch before the opening general session. 

My co-worker asked her phone what restaurants were nearby and we wound up at Cochon Butcher. I’m telling you right now if you’re ever in New Orleans and don’t visit there, I am silently judging you. Best Cubano ever plus Coke in a glass bottle. And only a quick walk from the convention center. Hell of a beer menu, too, but it was only noon. C’mon, you animals.

We got back in time early enough to get a pretty good seat to hear Kat Cole deliver the opening session. I. Love. Kat. Cole. It’s a business-boss-lady, awesome-human-being crush and I’m not even ashamed to admit it. When SHRM announced she’d be a keynote speaker, I was stoked. She spoke last year at the 2016 SHRM Talent Management Conference and I was blown away. She could have delivered the exact same talk and I wouldn’t have even cared. She didn’t. Instead, she delivered a story of how she failed in her own leadership, how she worked through it and how she regained the trust that was lost because of that. That story has stuck in my head and in my heart ever since I heard her talk about it. There’s so much more to dive into with Kat’s story and what she brings to a group of HR professionals. It’ll be a revisit sometime because I owe it to myself to really process some of those things I took away. 

After Kat, the Exhibition Hall opened up, which meant over 15,000 people were about to go get their free swag on and I was right there with them. Let me be completely honest with you for a second. I hate vendor stuff like this. My hate slowly disappeared when the first booth we stopped out was pouring a red solo cup of Zima if you gave them your business card. Totally worth the price of a couple of sales calls, if you ask me. They also included a Jolly Rancher. Hello, junior year of high school. It’s been a while.

I’d never been to a room that large filled with that many vendors, all there to talk about HR stuff. It was insane. There was typical swag: pens, tote bags, chip clips, magnets, the other things you pick up and then accidentally forget in your hotel room. And there were rubber ducks and fidget spinners (way to be relevant!) and t-shirts all over the place. It was enormous. Here’s an idea of some of the other swag vendors were handing out:

If you pour the drinks, people will come. I think anyone there was very comfortable with the fact that those free cocktails were going to wind up with some sales people calling us in the next couple of weeks. 

We went through a few areas of the rest of the exhibition hall, but knew we wouldn’t conquer the whole thing because we had dinner plans with some other HR folks that also happened to work in the credit union industry. It was a small group, only seven of us, but World of Beer was the perfect place for us to drink, eat and chat about credit union life on the HR side of things. 

(Side note: If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I’d be totally geeked about sitting at a table sipping blueberry wheat beer from a local brewery, followed by some amazing cider shipped over from Sweden, while talking about talent management, policies and procedures and HRIS systems with other adults, I would have punched you in the face because I was probably drunk on Bud Light, eating a Nacho Bell Grande and about four months away from getting fired from a software sales position.)

We paid our tabs and next thing you know, someone from our group had an Uber sitting in front of the restaurant waiting to take us to Frenchmen Street. Um, okay! We caught a bit of music at the Spotted Cat and then crossed the street to Snug Harbor when the band at the first place took a break. Because we’re mature credit union professionals, we weren’t out too late and all took a group jaunt back to our respective hotels. After all, we had a 7am session the next day and we had bets on who would actually show up in time for them all. Good news is most of us did.

#SHRM17 Upon Arrival

\We flew from Minneapolis to New Orleans with a three hour layover in Atlanta. I would have preferred to have a conversation/fan girl moment with Jimmy Carter, but for whatever reason, he’s never at my gate waiting for me in all of the times I’ve had a layover in Atlanta.

But almost just as awesome, the #SHRM17 Twitter feed started blowing up and it was as ah-maz-ing. I legit started geeking out. Some dude (actually Matt behind True Faith HR) tweeted about having Chick-Fil-A at the Atlanta airport and HOLY CRAP, I was right by there. Next thing I know, I’m in line at the Southwest gate saying hello to Matt, which turned into saying hello to a handful of other SHRM-goers.

Someone sat next to me on the plane and asked how I knew Matt and I paused momentarily before I just decided to own my answer: TWITTER. I’ve met people from the internet before (e.g. my wife, my best friend, way too many people that have recognized me as “Wendy from the internet”), but it was a whole different opening of a door that I didn’t know was even there.

We landed, got our luggage and checked into our conference at the airport (!!!) before heading to our adorable hotel (the Dauphine Orleans) just a block off Bourbon Street. Unpacked, settled in and headed off to find dinner. Both Killer PoBoys locations were less than two blocks from our hotel, so that seemed like fate. And, yes, they were killer.

We went back to our hotel rooms with tentative plans to stay in for the night and catch up on a few work things. I lasted until about 7 before I went into full on #SHRM17 Stalker Mode. There were people out and about all over the place, so I hit the French Quarter on my own determined to find another HR/SHRM person somewhere.

I saw Kate post about being at a bar only a few blocks from my hotel room, so that’s where I headed. And I walked past the bar because, NOPE – couldn’t muster up the intestinal fortitude to go in. I KNOW, RIGHT? I sat down on a bench and texted my co-worker who was back in her room finishing up some homework to see if she wanted to join. She was game, so we were off. I totally needed a wingman to meet HR people. Best thing I convinced myself to do the entire conference.

Pat O’Brien’s kept the hurricanes flowing and so did the HR twitter people. A couple of folks I’d followed on Twitter for a long time ended up joining us, along with their spouses. And then randomly enough, the lady I sat next to on the plane showed up because, wouldn’t you know it, she’s there for the SHRM conference, too. I mean, there were over 15,000 of us. I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised. She recognized me. I did not recognize her and I still can’t remember her name, but her husband and I definitely talked about whatever PGA golf tournament had just happened.

Day 1 in New Orleans and I was pretty jazzed (oh man, no terrible New Orleans pun intended, I swear) to have put names to faces, actually talked to other conference attendees and realized not all HR folks are like the “standard” HR folks. The conference hadn’t even started and I was already feeling the energy.