5 essential themes at SHRM 2019

June 27, 2019 Dan Miller

4-minute read

The urgency of employer brand has never been more important.

With record-low unemployment and the pressure to innovate in a fast-paced, hyper-connected world, HR leaders are tasked with building and retaining high-performing teams to grow market share. 

At SHRM 2019 in Las Vegas, more than 18,000 attendees packed keynotes and breakout sessions for inspiration, education, and answers to their pain points. Again and again, the value of employer brand took center stage.

So, what’s an HR professional to do to keep their company vibrant, relevant, and a place where people want to work?

Show authentic leadership – A dearth of strong leadership can quickly suffocate culture. The tired cliché that managers aren’t always necessarily leaders doesn’t work in 2019. Anyone who is trusted with people’s careers needs to lead. “You’ve got to hold your managers accountable for being great leaders,” said Christopher Mullen, director, Strategic Advisory at Kronos.

Leadership connectedness – setting clear direction across functions and teams – is equally important. “Focus on leadership alignment before you focus on leadership development,” said Timothy J. Tobin, dean, Choice University, Choice Hotels International. “Your employees need to see the singular vision.”

And remember that leadership is a humble attribute. “Leadership is about asking all the right questions, not having all the right answers,” said Johnny C. Taylor, president and CEO of SHRM.

Create a culture of trustTrust is arguably the top attribute of a strong employer brand. For further proof, just look at the negative company reviews on Glassdoor that stifle recruitment efforts. “It takes so much time to build up trust, and one mistake and it’s gone,” said Stuart Chittenden, founder and principal at Squishtalks. “Mistakes are amplified and social.”

“Trust is the cornerstone of leadership,” said Vineet Nayar, founder and chairman of Sampark Foundation. “A manager whose team knows they will stand up for them feels empowered. That kind of trust gives people the courage to innovate, take risks, and push themselves beyond their comfort zones to find success.”

A culture of trust is also one that allows and learns from failure. Without trust, innovation is discouraged because of repercussion fears. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again – but this time more intelligently,” said Jennifer McClure, president, Unbridled Talent.

Reduce bias and emphasize gratitude – Steve Pemberton, CHRO at Workhuman®, and Dr. Jesse Harriott, global head of analytics and executive director of the Workhuman® Analytics & Research Institute, demonstrated how social recognition can bridge the gap between diversity and inclusion.

Steve Pemberton SHRM 2019

Steve referred to world events, and the pursuit of inclusion – not just in the workplace, but in our everyday lives. “You have people who are marching to be seen, to be heard, to be recognized,” said Steve. “And it’s not just matters of gender, matters of race, and access for the LGBTQ community. What I would say those three things mean to me is that the problem in American society today is not unconscious bias … it’s conscious bias.”

Jesse shared customer data, which demonstrated improved retention for companies cutting through bias using social recognition. “The connections created by giving and receiving recognition leads to greater feelings of inclusion when it’s empowered by peers and given authentically,” said Jesse.

Jess Harriott SHRM 2019

Rethink performance management – The annual performance review was under constant attack throughout the sessions. Continuous performance management with regular check-ins and feedback is becoming the norm, resulting in positive outcomes including employee motivation, meaningful conversations, and the ability to gain insight into team dynamics.

“You’re not going to put on a Fitbit in January and then check it in December to see how you’re doing,” said Jeremy Spake, principal, Thought Leadership and Advisory Services at Cornerstone. “The benefits from continuous performance management are numerous and give you a holistic story that leads to a culture of growth.”

Embrace new-world recruiting – The tools available for sourcing and screening talent are making it easier for companies to find the best fit, for both skill set and culture fit. LinkedIn, a company that has redefined recruitment best practices, has applied deeper AI in its back end to fully expand upon explicit, behavioral, and inferred data to help recruiters and hiring managers reduce time to hire.

“Assembly lines were created so that differences between people didn’t matter,” said John Jerson, VP of product for Talent Solutions and Careers at LinkedIn. “But now we’re in an age when differences do matter, so much so that 35% of talent professionals and hiring managers say AI is the top trend impacting the way they hire.”

In 2019, companies need to build, protect, and amplify their employer brand. While new technology provides efficiencies to accelerate growth, it comes down to how you treat your employees – with trust and gratitude – that matters most.

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About the Author

Dan Miller

Dan Miller is the director of content marketing for Workhuman.

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