Three Takeaways from the 2019 SHRM HR People and Strategy Conference

Last week, I was fortunate to attend the 2019 SHRM HR People and Strategy Conference near the beautiful beaches of Aventura, Florida. The conference focused on being bold and courageous leaders at our organizations. It brought executive-level HR professionals together for an invigorating three days of networking, idea sharing, and learning.

For me, the conference was eye opening and motivating.  It provided an opportunity for me to hear from top thought leaders on important HR topics and best practices that will affect the future of our workforce.

Here are my top takeaways:

  • It is time to shift from Engagement to Fulfillment: Aaron Hurst, the CEO of Imperative, articulated during his keynote presentation that there are three sources of fulfillment for people: meaningful relationships, impact (doing work that matters), and growth (both personally and professionally).  According to his data from the 2019 Imperative Workforce Purpose Index, 66% of our workforce is unfulfilled. 64% of people would rather be in a fulfilling job vs. engaging job and there is a 1% chance of fulfillment in life if someone does not feel fulfilled at work.  All of this data implies that we have some work to do as HR professionals to help employees feel fulfilled.  When surveyed, employees associated the word ‘engagement’ with being active, busy, or showing interest.  Employees associated the word ‘fulfillment’ with enjoying, making a difference, and love. Human beings want to show up and have a purpose that makes them thrive at work.  Interestingly, 82% of employees agree that they are responsible for their own fulfillment, as employers we need to empower and equip them with being able to do that.
  • Employees need to keep developing skills to keep up with workplace demands. An effective way for them to learn is through peer coaching: 92% of CEO’s are worried that their employees do not have the skills that they need. Future skills are also hard to predict. Speaker and Author, Kelly Palmer, believes that the most important skill is learning agility or the curiosity to keep building skills all the time.  An effective way to keep building skills is through peer coaching.  69% of employees say that they learn most from their mentor, boss, and colleagues.  Peer coaching is effective because it’s learning in the flow of work – the topics learned are constantly revisited and reinforced.
  • Organizations and leaders that have courage find success: Julie Weber, the Vice President and Chief People Officer at Southwest Airlines, spoke about the challenges and successes of having courage. Southwest’s philosophy as an organization has always been happy employees equal happy customers and happy customers equals happy shareholders. They truly put employees first in all of their decisions, which has led to their long employee tenure and successful business. 91% of Southwest Airlines employees are proud to work there and 86% recommend it as a good place to work. And those percentages are not good enough for their executive team.  They continue to strive to make those numbers 100%.  It takes courage to put employees first – they turn down highly skilled candidates if they do not meet the criteria of having a warrior spirit, servant’s heart, and fun loving attitude.  Their leaders are taught courage to coach in the moment and lead with love.  A few additional thoughts about courage that resonated with me during the conference include, “Courage is the commitment to start without any guarantee.” “Courage is being brave to ask the tough questions and question what has always been done.” “Courage is being authentic and vulnerable as a leader. Showing you are human breads trust and people will want to get on board with you.” Finally a quote from Winston Churchill, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak: Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”