Top 10 Takeaways from #SHRM19

by Jathan Janove, J.D.

We asked attendees at the SHRM 2019 Annual Conference & Exposition to tell us the most important thing they learned from the conference speakers. Here are their top 10 takeaways:

My biggest takeaway came from [SHRM President and CEO] Johnny Taylor's keynote presentation. He made a compelling case for hiring those who need a second chance or have disabilities or who are seasoned in their career. His words, including the people who came on stage dressed in black representing ageism, the successful people with disabilities—the whole thing gelled and it made the message stick. 

Teresa Vaughn, SHRM-SCP, Vice President, Human Resources, Johnson & Johnson, Inc., Charleston, S.C.


In the session on strategic HR ("Elevate Your Game" with Valerie Grubb), I learned that understanding what the CEO is thinking is key to aligning HR with the direction of company. The advice to ask your CEO what book he/she is currently reading was significant—it provides insights into their thinking.

Tom Ferland, Director of Human Resources, IQGeo America Inc., Denver 


In "The Future of Work: Why Having a Culture of High Trust is Not Only Important, It's Essential," Richard Fagerlin looked at trust as an intentional design in an organization's culture and how greater results can be achieved in a high-trust culture. Takeaways included an understanding of how crafting the organizational message is not enough; everyone must say the message and say it emphatically at all times. We must be willing to be vulnerable to others in order to build trust. "Trust is not something that you earn. It is something that you give away and if you're not willing to give it, you will not get it."

Kathy Ruffino, SHRM-SCP, VP—Coastal Region, Train Me Today, Irving, Calif.


My No. 1 takeaway came from Brene Brown's keynote. Her message of bravery, vulnerability, courage, shame and empathy inspired me to go back and, as she suggested, translate our company values into observable behaviors like, "We don't talk about people, we talk to people." "There is no meeting after the meeting."

Suzanne Robinson, SHRM-SCP, Vice President, Human Resources, Haley Residential, Omaha, Neb.


In Cy Wakeman's session, "Innovation and Collaboration Are Your Natural State When the Drama's Gone," she posed a very simple question that has been on my mind since that day: "What does the great [you] look like?" This was significant to me because it was a mindset change in how we perceive ourselves within the context of our interactions, relationships and through our biases. Who we want to be should be tied to a desire to be our best selves, our higher selves. This higher plane of consciousness is the root of what we are trying to help instill in our role as HR professionals. We don't fix broken people; we help elevate each other to these higher selves through innovation, engagement, creativeness, accountability and impact overall.

Peng Se Lim, People Business Partner, 1-800 Contacts, Inc., Draper, Utah 


One of the key takeaways for me was from Brad Karsh's session, "The Good, Bad and Ugly: Creating a Culture of Feedback." Gone are the days of giving feedback during the annual performance appraisal. Employers need to create work environments in which their employees receive feedback on an ongoing basis, and moreover, today's generation expects it. Brad made a compelling case as to why this is so important in the workplace, and gave practical advice on how it can effectively be delivered respectfully while also holding employees accountable.

Tracy Stachniak, SCP-SHRM, Director of Human Resources and Training & Development, Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc., Columbus, Ind.


The session on "People Analytics" with Giovanni Everduin from The Ethnicity Group impressed upon me how critical it is for HR business partners to be more strategic in using data and numbers in decision-making. We will gain more credibility within our organizations if we use data analytics to help the business make informed decisions that move the company forward, improve effectiveness, increase profits and help achieve the organization's overall goals.

Darin Wilson, SHRM-SCP, Director of Human Resources, Lhoist North America, Inc., Henderson, Nev.


The "Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019" by Dan Schawbel was one of my favorites. The session explored how globalization, automation and the changing economy affects the workplace. Takeaways included a study on how AI was used to improve recruiting practices, what employees are looking for in their work environment and culture, and Gen Z and their challenges and expectations in the workplace. According to Schawbel, soft skills are more valuable than ever; they contribute to a culture of trust, which, when employees feel they have that, makes for a more successful company. 

Teresa LaMotte, SHRM-CP, Vice President Human Resources, Sares Regis Group, Irvine, Calif.


A key takeaway for me occurred in a session by Glen Kraemer ("Shaping Hearts, Minds, and Corporate Cultures: Effective Prevention Training in the #MeToo Era"). He asked, "Would you treat a loved one the same way you would treat your employees? Would you want your loved one to be treated the way our supervisors, managers, or executives treat our employees?" The overall message: Be more than just a bystander; be engaged in setting the culture.

Brenda Rushforth, SHRM-SCP, Chief Human Resources Officer, Pomona College, Claremont, Calif. 


In the Smart Stage session by Karl Ahlrichs, "Three Questions You Should Ask Every Applicant," I learned about how to ask effective questions to find those applicants that are the right job fit and to weed out applicants that aren't aligned with the company culture and job. This struck me as significant because our goal is to find applicants that are a better fit in order to retain our talent for longer. The three questions are:
1. What's the first job that you did to earn money? Tell me about it. (Ownership values)
2. At work, what's the funniest thing that has ever happened to you? (Flexibility)
3. At work, are you fortunate? Give me an example. (Weed out victims)

Cami Smith, People Operations Partner, 1-800 Contacts, Draper, Utah



Originally published July 2, 2019 by Jathan Janove, J.D. on

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