Mega HR Trends for 2017 and Beyond – Perspectives on the Future of the Workplace from #SHRM16

#SHRM16First in a Series

Having the perspective of several weeks to digest SHRM’s fabulous annual conference, key short and long term challenges and opportunities for HR increasingly come into sharp focus.

The benefit of press access at the conference provided not only access to the full sessions and exhibit floor, but unique access to SHRM staff and key releases of reports. I was fortunate, along with several of my XpertHR colleagues, to benefit from the speakers, SHRM staffer analysis on several new reports, the buzz at the immense SHRMStore, HR support service trends via the exhibit hall aisles and, last but by no means least, the tens of thousands of HR pros so actively engaged in the conference.


The energy, enthusiasm, quality of speakers and engagement of attendees are a tribute to both SHRM and the #HR profession. Never have I worked with such a committed and engaged group determined to serve the business needs of their employer while promoting workplaces focused on employee engagement, business delivery and meeting head-on the emerging legal, social and technical challenges faced on a daily basis.

I’ve been fortunate to attend SHRM’s annual conferences for several years now, and each has been unique in responding to current issues while consistent in showcasing a profession of caliber, energy and fortitude in the face of rapidly changing workplace. The openness to face the challenges, desire for quality and ethics, and attention to the finer details of stewardship over the many faces of the workplace by HR are truly commendable.

I attended numerous strategic and tactical sessions at #SHRM16, including the standing room only Tammy McCutchen “mega” session on the DOL overtime rules (if you missed it, you can access an on-demand recording of a recent webinar she presented with us on the same topic), Steve Browne’s HR on Purpose! Five Ways to Own, Lead and Integrate HR Throughout Your Organization, and Gary Kushner’s Optimizing HR Strategy for Organizational Effectiveness. Bar none, the audiences and speakers were animated and engaged in identifying and addressing today’s workplace challenges.

LouisLessig tweet

A newer SHRM conference feature is their “smart stage” – offering shorter, more informal sessions sprinkled throughout the conference on a range of topics in an open space setting. Attorney @LouisLessig’s “Discipline in the Age of Social Media” provided terrific insight into one of today’s many workplace challenges in the face of rapidly evolving technology. I especially loved his real-time use of a selfie-stick to take a picture of the audience and promptly tweeting it to show the immediacy of social media and how it can play out in a professional setting (that’s me in the red jacket!).

recruiting report release

Our very own David Weisenfeld in the front row at the SHRM press briefing!

XpertHR was fortunate to hear “hot off the press” insights into the releases of new SHRM reports, with access to the researchers who authored the reports. Check out our coverage:

No matter how much familiarity I have with the topic covered in a SHRM conference session I attend, for the most part I find I come away from individual sessions, and certainly the conference as a whole, with more insights and ideas on the topics, excitement about the opportunities the future holds, and admiration for the depth of knowledge of the speakers.

Taking a step back from the throes of #SHRM16 specific sessions, however, some key workplace mega trends affecting HR really jump out.

HR Mega Trend 1: The Power of Connecting

The HR field, for the most part, is a “people” profession, attracting “people” people! No surprises here… Personal connections, networking, interactions… these have been vital to HR for decades. Yet no doubt many of the methods have evolved, well beyond where many could have envisioned even five years ago! These were actively on display and embraced at #SHRM16.

For those with a twitter account, #SHRM16 was a vibrant space during the conference to connect, share insights, discuss points, celebrate and simply have fun. The thousands of tweets, shares, photos and videos, comments and likes speak volumes to the engagement of attendees and speakers.

@HRBartender shared @HRMarketer’s social analysis of the conference – a fascinating read – including a listing of who was most mentioned on twitter at #SHRM16. With numbers into the thousands for some mentions, it’s clear that engagement on twitter during the show was high! Most on the list are speakers, various SHRM entities, exhibitors and the most media-savvy bloggers.

HRBartender tweet

Numerous sessions addressed the evolution and continued importance of connections, not just for HR but in life and the workplace, reinforcing this underlying human need. Here are just a few of the myriad topics addressed in the conference that speak to relationships, communications, and the range of issues workplace connections cover:

While it’s clear we all need a business mindset, the human side of human resources is far more than numbers and metrics!

I can see why the most popular tweet was @ValaAfshar’s (of @Salesforce) who tweeted: tweet branson quote

Other new ways to connect at the conference included SHRM Foundation’s Step Challenge, a clever initiative that numerous attendees participated in to raise funds, embrace wellness, and build community. A partnership between SHRM Foundation, @Fitbit, and @AARP, the challenge resulted in over 50 million steps and $3000 in funds from several thousand participants.

SHRM step challenge

Another way to connect included the massive exhibit floor, which provided ample opportunities and learn, engage and enhance knowledge. The hall provided new service providers, new solutions and innovative activities… plus some fun! One of the best activities I saw in the hall was inspired by Jeopardy and provided by First Advantage. Lots of fun while demonstrating the great knowledge and insights of attendees!

Exhibit Floor game pic2

Not to be outdone, the extensive SHRMStore was abuzz from opening to closing. Book signings, resources, discussions – HR folks browsing and discussing resources to help them upskill and meet the challenges faced in our 20th century workplace.

Discussion board snapshotLast but not least, many attendees participated in an online discussion group to share questions and insights. It continues to be active weeks after the closing of the conference. Here’s a snapshot of just a few of the wide range of issues discussed in the group: No doubt, the HR profession and the SHRM conference demonstrates our need for connections, despite the increasing move toward virtual interactions. The need for connections continues despite the dramatic changes in the methods!

No matter how you learn, how you like to connect, how you like to network – SHRM’s conference has it all, and is really embracing social connections while not forgoing more traditional means of connecting.

Coming next: Inroads for HR as Strategic Business Partner.




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