SHRM Annual 2017: When HR Goes Marching “All In”

jazzPerhaps it was the Jazz riffs greeting us as we made our way through the conference halls, or this year’s theme and call to action for HR to go “All In” regarding their commitment to the HR profession, but SHRM’s 2017 Annual Conference in New Orleans was high-energy, thought-provoking and inspiring.

Marking the second-largest conference in SHRM history, over 15,400 HR and business leaders, including 1000 global attendees from more than 80 countries, descended upon the south to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing organizations today and the most effective ways HR can make a difference.

Some of the more resounding messages for this year’s SHRM attendees were also the simplest ones. Consider former SVP of People Operations at Google, Laszlo Bock, who, in pursuit of his self-professed goal to make work “suck less”, urged HR leaders to focus employees on a mission and ensure their jobs have meaning by connecting them to the effect their work has on others.

Bock, along with Chief Experience Officer Ryan Estis, in his session on rethinking HR for the evolving workplace, suggested HR leaders promote an organizational culture where stories of how the company impacts real-life individuals are presented regularly and often to employees.

Or, Employee Engagement Group CEO Bob Kelleher who, in a session on improving employee engagement to drive business results, urged organizations to expand the focus of engagement to the “whole employee” rather than just the “work experience” based on clear indications that things that are happening at home will undoubtedly affect work.

Given the recent findings of SHRM’s National Study of the Changing Workforce, which takes a comprehensive look at employees’ lives on and off the job, that 42% of all employees have childcare responsibilities for children under 18; that 3 in 10 employees expect to provide elder care in the next five years; and that work-family conflict is both high and not just limited to women (46% of men report work-family conflict compared to 43% of women), it is essential for employers not to ignore the impact of life on work.

But perhaps the most simple yet powerful call to action came from Patrick Lencioni’s keynote session where he provided a rundown of the three qualities that constitute a g reat team player and advised leaders to look for and cultivate these attributes in employees. In Lencioni’s own words, effective teams are an organization’s “best competitive advantage” and there is “no better group than HR” to foster teamwork by emphasizing these traits during hiring and nurturing them throughout career development.

According to Lencioni, all great team players are:

(1) Humble, meaning they are likely to focus more on and drive attention to the contributions of others rather than their own;

(2) Hungry, meaning that they are always seeking out more to do and more opportunities to learn. Hungry people focus on achieving results and are not satisfied until they do; and

(3) Smart, but mainly in terms of emotional intelligence over academic intelligence. Smart team players have “common sense around human beings” and know how to effectively deal with and motivate others.

Lencioni noted that a team member who egregiously lacks even one of these essential traits can impede the ability for the team to work together productively. For instance, a team member who is smart and hungry but not humble will alienate his or her other team members by ensuring the accolades for themselves while also knowing how to “work” (read: manipulate) other teammates behind their back.

Lencioni advised that employers looking to develop these attributes in current employees could consider the following simple exercise:

(1) Ask team members to self-reflect on the three traits within themselves and list them from 1-3, with 3 being their least consistent trait; and then

(2) Group team members according to their weakness and ask them to offer one another advice on how to improve.

By openly addressing their weaknesses to other team members with a similar weakness, Lencioni suggested this will promote better self-awareness and accountability for team members to improve in their future interactions. However, for this approach to work effectively, Lencioni stressed that team leaders need to be diligent and direct in pointing out examples of the weakness, whenever witnessed, to ensure the individual faces it and remains committed to improvement.

Now that doesn’t sound all that complicated, does it? In fact, given that promoting a more effective workplace is at stake, incorporating Lencioni’s approach into both your hiring approach and development standards and reaping the benefits could ultimately prove to be HR’s version of the “Big Easy”.

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