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Juicy Takeaways from SHRM17

Juicy Takeaways from SHRM17

By: Connie Blaszczyk, Managing Editor, Monster Resource Center

If there’s one thing we all need, it’s to keep learning. And there was plenty of learning to go around at the 69th Annual Conference and Exposition for the Society for Human Resource Management (otherwise known as SHRM17.) 

The 4-day conference was jam-packed with learning sessions, keynote addresses, master series and more. And while physics tells us it’s impossible to be in two places at once, many attendees did their best to break the laws of matter and absorb as much learning as possible.  

I don’t know about you, but I walked (and walked and walked!) away from the SHRM experience energized by all the ideas and viewpoints. If you weren’t able to attend this year’s conference, I thought I might share some juicy takeaways from a few favorite sessions I attended.  Let’s compare notes if you attended them too!   

Understand your employees’ personas – and your own.
In his keynote address, The Table Group Founder and President Patrick Lencioni explained common workplace personas from his latest book, The Ideal Team Player. There’s the “pawn,” the “accidental mess maker,” the “loveable slacker,” and the “skillful politician.” These tarot deck characters lack one or more of the three characteristics of an ideal team player (humble, hungry and smart.)

While he cautioned against taking these personas too literally, Lencioni encouraged us to “Go first, analyze yourself.” That’s a great place to start. After all, how can you help others as an HR professional if you don’t know what you bring to the equation?  

Make sure you’re focusing on the right indicators.
In his presentation “Understanding Metrics: How to Connect HR's Goals to Business Strategy,” Ryan Kohler — chief innovation officer at ApplicantPro — challenged HR professionals to focus on leading indicators vs. lagging indicators with their HR metrics. 

Why? Lagging indicators don’t relate to revenue — whereas leading indicators relate to the bottom line, which as we know, is always top of mind in business. 

Kohler cited a well-known issue for many companies: a laborious candidate experience, which is a lagging indicator. So how can you convince your boss that it’s a problem? He advised taking the perspective of your customer base, which is a leading indicator. How many of your applicants are also customers? Is there a correlation between applicants and customer drop off?  Voila– you’ve just correlated your burdensome candidate experience with a drop in company revenue, which is sure to get the attention of higher ups. 

Break down the brain's biases with best practices. 
David Rock’s presentation on “The Neuroscience of Breaking Bias” brought new insights to an all too familiar topic. As Director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, Rock has studied the inherent biases of how our brains work — and offered some best practices on how diversity and inclusion can break through them. 

For example, there’s the similarity bias. People often report feeling more effective as part of a homogeneous team. Conversely, people feel uncomfortable working in a diverse group. Yet data shows that diverse teams perform better, precisely because of the “discomfort” that challenges them to think out of the box.

Another phenomenon Rock cited is how the brain interprets objects that are closer to us as better. Known as the distance bias, it often plays out in virtual meetings in which some attendees are off-site. Regardless of whether these folks are on the phone or on camera, their distance leaves them overlooked or not heard. To level the playing field, Rock recommends that everyone be on camera — regardless of whether or not they’re in the same location. 

Cultivate tech talent from new sources. 
Does intellectual curiosity matter more than smarts? Anthony Williams says yes. As Akamai’s vice president of talent acquisition and diversity, Williams has led the charge to increase gender, ethnic and veteran diversity by developing tech talent from unlikely places.  

In his session, “How a Tech Company Is Diversifying its Workforce by Building its Own Talent Pipeline,” Williams explained how the tech giant ranks potential over pedigree in their innovative tech training program.  Recruits are drawn from a variety of personas — dissatisfied college grads who seek a change of direction, mid-career professionals looking to pivot their careers and older workers who want to rejoin the workforce — and trained in unlikely locations such as Krakow, Poland. 

Candidates are carefully assessed for core competencies and endure 600 to 900 hours of training, followed by an apprenticeship. Key to the program’s success has been the buy-in of leaders in the organization who influence the training curriculum and agree up front to hire graduates. 

Re-recruit your top talent.  
More than a few SHRM17 sessions focused on employee engagement– and no wonder. Top talent is equally difficult to retain as it is to find. In her session, “Getting the C-Suite’s Attention: Seven Strategies for Transforming HR Leader to Business Leader,” Jennifer McClure made the case for HR’s new role as one of talent broker. 

McClure — President of Unbridled Talent, LLC — encouraged HR leaders to move from short-term tactics to long-term strategy. Step one is to identify your most critical roles and talent in the current organization. Then analyze the shortages of your available talent who are qualified to fill critical roles. Those outcomes can help you create a long-term workforce plan. 

As you map out your talent pipeline, make sure to keep top talent engaged. Provide them with the experience they need to become leaders. Actively re-recruit them by asking if they’re happy. If they had a magic wand, what would they change in the job? The more you know about their vulnerabilities the better. 

Make the move from firefighter to influencer. 
Managers most often answer “how” questions while leaders answer “why” questions. So how can you move your career from how to why? By building a personal brand that creates influence, says Brandon Smith, founder and principle at The Worksmiths, LLC

In his session, “Influencing without Authority,” Smith explained how to create your personal brand at work that highlights the value you offer. That will allow you to move from HR firefighter to strategic leader by building positive relationships across the organization. 

That means learning to give positive feedback — even when there’s nothing positive to say. That means making a commitment to sharing a meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) with people across the organization. It means checking in with stressed peers and bosses and offering a vote a confidence.

And if that sounds like a lot of effort, consider this: The positive energy you give out will soon come back to you. 

Hear More from your Favorite SHRM17 Presenters