Monday, August 4, 2008

SHRM 2008

I returned last month from the most amazing conference imaginable and it was a real privilege to have been among so many interesting and like-minded HR professionals.

The conference was the annual major event for the Society of Human Resource Managers – SHRM. All 15 000 delegates congregated in Chicago in a vast conference centre – I had blisters on my feet from walking up and down to the various venues.

There were 750 exhibitors and full of new ideas – and some new gimmicks. Unbelievable guest speakers including the fabulous Sydney Poitier, the most eloquent speaker I have ever listened to. He had me in tears and thankfully I saw that the girl next to me was in the same teary state. If you can get hold of his biography it is an inspirational read.

So – what did I learn? Where do I even begin to tell you everything as there is just so much. So sit back as this is a longer than usual blog.

Main learning trends


A very strong theme that came through in all sessions was the power and the value of story-telling. This was really interesting for us at MCI as our LEGO Serious Play methodology is based on the use of the models as a catalyst for creative thinking.

Keynote speakers at the conference all told stories. Sydney Poitier told the story of his life and why he is now a philanthropist. Historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, told the story of why Abraham Lincoln is such a great leader.

Linda A Hill, Prof of Business from Harvard University, used story-telling as a way of explaining why Indian organisations are moving so far ahead of the pack.

Speakers on presentation and facilitation skills emphasised how CEO’s who make a difference and lead teams through change, use the value of story-telling.

In order to create powerful stories think of the following events in your life and then link the story to some challenge that your division or organisation is facing right now:

Inspiring moments in your life of in the life of someone you know

Personal challenges, difficult decisions, choices, hurdles, obstacles in your life or the lives of people you have known.

Startling events, major changes, new experiences that shaped you

Awkward situations, failed attempts, lots opportunities.

Inspiring people, mentors, individuals you admire, remarkable achievements, memorable events you have witnessed or experienced.

2. Messages for HR managers

The Director of the SHRM was retiring and gave an inspirational message to HR practitioners.

She said:

1.Don’t ask for a seat at the Exec table
2.Dare to be bold
3.Dare to change the way HR is perceived
4.Dare to be personal
5.Keep the human in human resources

3. Professional development

The States is very focused on ensuring that HR managers maintain professional development points to ensure continuing registration as HR professionals. HR managers cannot secure top jobs without proof of ongoing professional development and that registration has been maintained.

This ensures that qualifications are current and that managers are up to date with latest thinking. Certain sessions at the conference and the pre-conference were attended by thousands of people in order to secure points. The points work in a 3 year cycle so everyone has adequate time to attend sessions and ensure currency.

Wish that this was something that we could do in Australia!

4. Exemplary Practices

The States follows the criteria set by the 'Great Place to work Institute' and awards organisations that meet these criteria.
Have a look at their website for some insight into how this operates:

Interesting to note that on stage on the second morning of the conference were representatives from 100 large and small to medium enterprises who were publicly recognised and acknowledged as having met the criteria.
This was accompanied by full page adverts in the New York Times and other newspapers.
A real encouragement for organisations to also live up to these standards.

5. Inspirational messages

Several speakers sending out messages to motivate and energise - and let me tell you that these sessions were also really full!

If we look at tombstones, they are written as 1920 – 1999. The small dash between the 2 dates represents someone’s whole life.

If you don’t control your mind, someone else will.

Write things down to help memorise them.

The most important story is the one you tell yourself

Energy runs the world – focus your energy

The past is a reference point and not a residence

There are infinite possibilities and opportunities – if we don’t see that we have not been paying attention

We grow by making a decision to do things differently

In HR, help people to fulfil their dreams.

Energy for growth is learning. The fuel for growth is curiosity.

Customer service is about giving people an experience that is sensational

As HR professionals bring vision, passion and purpose to the organisation.

If this blog is of interest to you, we are running sessions in Sydney where I go into more detail about what we learnt. Email for more details.

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