The annual Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) HR Conference wrapped up in our nation’s capital last week and what a conference it was! Billed as the best—and biggest—HR conference in the world, SHRM 2016 didn’t disappoint. More than 13,000 HR professionals descended on the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the heart of D.C. to learn from some of the world’s top industry leaders and to discuss all things “people” with colleagues from around the globe.

Attendees also had the chance to connect with more than 650 vendors in over 2,600 business categories, as well as attend one of the 200 concurrent sessions covering everything from workplace culture and employee engagement to managing virtual teams and the future of HR. Of course Jive was on hand doing what we do best – enabling people to work better together.

A beautiful morning at the iconic Lincoln Memorial

One of America's Top 100 Keynote Speakers, Ryan Estis, on why this is the best time ever to practice HR

It would be an understatement to say there was something for everyone. The conference was a smorgasbord of tips, tricks and solutions in an industry that is, in the words of one presenter, “at a unique moment in time.” In fact, says Ryan Estis, Chief Experience Officer at his own consultancy, Ryan Estis and Associates, “this is the best time in the past two decades to be in the practice of HR.” There has never been a better time for HR to impact the success of the organization, he says.

Over the course of three days, attendees learned, among other things, about human behavior. “You can have either disagreement or dishonesty” from your employees, but not both, says author and behavioral science expert Joe Gerstandt. That’s because human beings are wired for conformity. If people don’t feel safe sharing their opinions with leaders, says Gerstandt, they’ll succumb to groupthink. That’s dangerous, because disagreement is only valuable before decisions are made, he says. Therefore, encouraging transparency in your business is one of the key building blocks of a great company culture.

Behavioral science expert Joe Gerstandt (r) and friend

Speaking of building blocks, they’re exactly what David Almeda, Vice President of HR at Kronos Incorporated, says you should be thinking about when you’re developing your own company’s culture. While some blocks will help the organization grow, says Almeda, others will need to be replaced. “To be effective, you may not always be popular,” he says. But, because engaged employees (who currently make up less than a third of the U.S. workforce) want to work with other top performers, you need to reward your best talent, nurture the merely disengaged (50% of workers) and say goodbye to actively disengaged employees (18%). Investing in talent equals high ROI, says Almeda.

You can’t lose top talent and stay competitive.

David Almeda, Vice President of HR at Kronos Incorporated, on how to be effective

Engagement in action: bestselling author Bob Kelleher on the importance of hiring top talent

In his session entitled, “You Don’t Have an Engagement Issue, You Have a Hiring Issue,” bestselling author of the book Louder Than WordsBob Kelleher went one further, pointing out that there’s a difference between employee engagement and employee satisfaction. “The last thing you want is an underperforming employee who is satisfied,” he says. One way to stack your roster with top talent is to “find yourself,” says Kelleher. Because 75% of employees visit review sites such as Glassdoor before deciding whether to accept an offer of employment, it’s important to get clear about your brand’s Employer Value Proposition (EVP). “Understanding who you are is key to helping you with your engagement.” Those engaged workers will eventually become your “brand accelerators,” he says.

Finding engaged employees is one thing, keeping them motivated is quite another, according to Verbalocity CEO , Clint Swindall. That takes leadership. “People look to their leaders for consistency,” he says, which means executives and managers must lead all day, every day. Swindall proposes an Engaged Leadership Model for business leaders that is directional (set expectations and consequences), motivational (create methods to celebrate successes – even the small ones) and organizational (move toward “real” empowerment by allowing people to solve their own problems).

Want to know how to motivate your employees?...Ask them!

Clint Swindall, CEO at Verbalocity, on employee engagement

Of course, engaging employees also requires constant communication. That’s especially true in a diverse, multicultural business world in which more people than ever are working remotely, says Giselle Kovary, a managing partner with n-gen People Performance, Inc. While flexible work arrangements can lead to increased employee engagement and retention, Kovary notes that virtual meetings tend to be all business. “Chit-chat is critical to collaboration,” she says. Technology such as video conferencing and Jive’s Interactive Intranet solution can help foster trust and to keep disconnected employees connected, says Kovary. “It’s hard to put a price on achieving trust,” she says.

Giselle Kovary says that technology such as Jive's Interactive Intranet help keep remote workers connected and engaged

As the whirlwind conference wound down, the weather outside was just getting started. Perhaps appropriately, SHRM attendees were ushered out on Tuesday evening by a spectacular thunder and lightning show ahead of the night’s entertainment, a performance by multi-platinum award-winning rockers, Train. It’s safe to say that, despite flash flood warnings that had the city on lockdown and folks scrambling for safety inside of D.C.’s famous restaurants and bars, the SHRM HR conference gave attendees everything they came for—and a lot more!

An Inside Look at the SHRM 2016 HR Conference


Your organization can thrive in today’s stormy business environment by building a culture that engages and connects an increasingly diverse workforce.

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