By Tina Marie Wohlfield
Last week, over 18,000 HR professionals came together both in New Orleans and virtually during four incredible days at the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo. From sessions to connections, #SHRM22 had something to offer an HR profession regardless of your level, industry, employer size or location.
With any conference or trip requiring travel, one should always expect there to be a “little rough air”, but those bumps bring the greatest opportunities to connect with someone you may have missed in the crowd. Some of my most cherished moments this year, were the people or sessions I found myself with, because my very carefully planned conference agenda had a detour or two.
There are so many highlights and takeaways from this year’s conference. Here are my top 5 Session Takeaways.
Johnny C. Taylor Jr – “Be a Thermostat! Change the Temperature by Influencing the hearts and minds of our people so that we all benefit.” This is one of my favorite quotes from this year’s conference in how HR can cause the effect in our organizations.
Greg Schwem – “When is it NOT a good time to be laughing – NEVER!” We need to recognize that it is ok to laugh at work. Because it is, especially if you are in HR.
Steve Browne – “If you are not here for the people – get out.” In HR we are people that deal with other people. We need to be sure our practices, policies and strategies focus on the people we serve.
April Callis-Birchmeier – “Create a narrative that is relevant and relatable to get people to embrace change.” Stories connect people and the more we connect them with the need and why for change – we will have detailers and not derailers!
Johnny C. Taylor Jr. – “Being valued is different than showing value.” Sometimes in HR we focus so much at proving our value that we miss or lack being valued ourselves.
From airport gates, shuttles, UBERS, and lines in the expo, I had the incredible opportunity to meet and share experiences with members of our global HR Community.
On my flights to and from NOLA, I ran into old HR friends I had not seen in a while (no thanks to COVID) and had the pleasure of making new ones! On my flight out of Detroit, it was the #SHRM22 party plane with more than half the flight headed to the conference! And we had a VIP on the flight as “Mr. Steve Browne” was on board. Sorry, no tiny hands or squirrels were allowed in the cabin during that flight.
Like many of you, getting home was a little challenging and I had gotten bumped off my direct return flight back to Detroit and was now flying out of Atlanta with a early morning arrival. That switch (thank you Delta) was a blessing as I got to meet Johnny C. Taylor for the first time (I admit a definite fan girl moment). Johnny was on the same flight sitting behind me and I had the best seat mates for that segment of my trip meeting Clint Clayborn from Columbia South Carolina, who has spent 25 years working at a credit union (I spent 10 in the industry) so we celebrated stories even during a little turbulence.
I took Steve Browne’s advice and said hello to people going up and down the escalator (some chatted back). I met Jennifer and Christine from New York in the expo when it first opened. I danced in the entrance outside Hall F and made new friends along the way that celebrated my excitement for being at #SHRM22.
I also had the pleasure of meeting in real life, Izabel Masiarchin from Utah. Izabel and I connected on social media prior to the conference. She surprised me by attending my session on Tuesday afternoon. Best part, her comment to a post on LinkedIn after my session was that “I killed it”. I hope she shared that in the speaker survey (best feedback ever!)
Our SHRM HR Volunteers Cause the Effect at SHRM22
One of the highlights of my conference was the ability to meet and connect with attendees and the army of volunteers (yellow and green shirts) who worked hard to ensure that your conference experience was #HRAwesome. When an event of this magnitude is planned, it takes a village of volunteers, many behind the scenes to make it happen. These incredible volunteers come from our local and state chapter network, members of our SHRM #HRCommunity. From our host New Orleans SHRM to Texas, South Carolina and more – I want to shout cheers of appreciation to these amazing individuals a few of which I want to highlight here.
I met Alicia Long from South Carolina in the volunteers’ lounge over breakfast on Day 2. She had just got done being a room host of a session I had tried to make (but missed) and was happy to share how amazing it was. She is the founder, CEO of “I am My Sisters Bra” a non-profit. I loved her energy and cracked a joke that I wish she would be my room host for my session the next day. Alicia made that happen – by the way. As a result, a new HR connection was born over waffles and coffee! #Priceless
The ability to volunteer and represent our SHRM community is an amazing part of the SHRM annual conference experience for so many of our local and state council members.
I got to spend time with Damona Barnes and Nancy Springler, two volunteers from our host city chapter New Orleans SHRM. Damona is an HR rockstar and former president of the NOSHRM. When I was chatting with Nancy, I asked her why she chose to volunteer at our annual conference this year. She shared for her it is the ability to meet and interact with so many individuals from our global HR community and make lasting connections that may otherwise be missed if she was just an attendee.
From the SHRM Store to the Student Lounge, Volunteer Leader Lounge, to the Certification Lounge…expo hall to room hosts and in between; an army of SHRM employees and volunteers were working hard to make our conference experience impactful. Thank you to all of you, SHRM, our volunteer team leaders (green shirts), and volunteers (yellow shirts) for giving us the gift of your time and new connections made through your efforts. If you are attending SHRM alone and want to meet new individuals and/or looking for a way to give back, watch for volunteer opportunities through your local chapter or SHRM for next years conference!
Celebrate our HR Community – We are Better Together
As my final blog post for #SHRM22 I want to say thank you. I was incredibly honored to have been selected to speak and be on the #SHRM22Influencer team to share my conference experience with you real time. From leading up to the conference, during and this post event summary I got to share my excitement with you. I was able to meet 19 of the 21 individuals on this team in #NOLA several for the first time “in real life” including Mary W, Melanie P, Anish and Baskaran. Diane F, our time is coming, and I can’t wait to see you in person next year!
Most of us in the SHRM22Influencer group are HR professionals like you. We are passionate for our HR community and the incredible work happening within it. I was welcomed by these amazing humans and other friendly faces who screamed, “Welcome to SHRM22 – We are SO glad you are here!” Me too! I am glad to have embarked on the incredible experience last week with all of you!
I came to this year’s conference with three objectives – to make connections, have meaningful conversations (learn from speakers and my peers) and celebrate our #HRAwesome global SHRM HR community. I left with incredible memories with old friends and new, feeling empowered with the tools to continue to #CauseetheEffect in my HR role, and gratitude for the ability to have this experience and share it with you.
The impact we can have as a profession, when we come together to support, advocate, celebrate and inspire other HR professionals is evident. I have never been prouder to be a long-time member of SHRM. One last tip (thank you to Jeff Palkowski), if you are planning on joining us in Vegas for #SHRM23 (which I hope you are), don’t forget to book your room early (via the SHRM23 housing block.
Viva Las Vegas!