The Michigan Council of SHRM annual conference (MISHRM) was back again after a one year fully virtual option in Grand Rapids last week. For many, the first conference in a COVID world, MISHRM went the extra mile to ensure a gathering of HR professionals could happen. This year was a smaller than normal gathering (around 600 attendees) with the exhibit hall and general session format allowing for social distancing and more intimate conversations.

I am a long-time attendee (this conference has been on my must attend list since the dawn of my #HR career). I have participated in various capacities (as an attendee, exhibitor and speaker) and this year added a new perspective helping launch the MISHRM Influencer Team (#MISHRM21MIT) – a group of #HRAwesome #HRPros sharing our conference experience through our social media channels. I will talk about the #MISHRM21MIT in a minute.

Attending #MISHRM has helped shaped my HR career through developing impactful connections, expanding my #HRcuriosity or toolbox and my own professional development. As with any conference, there are some years that are better then others – but I want to highlight this year’s experience because if anything this pandemic has taught me is to appreciate and embrace the things that bring you joy – and connecting with my #hrcommunity is one of them!

I shared my top 5 #MISHRM21 on twitter (@TMWohlfield) over the weekend – but here are a few of my highlights.

  1. Reuniting with members of the #HRUnite! community – in person (some of which I have only connected with via zoom). For example – James Ward (a member of GR(1)) who lives near GR, was not able to attend the conference this year (because he is rocking it as a Global HR leader and in the middle of some pretty impressive stuff).. James was following all the action via #MISHRM21 and #MISHRM21MIT and found me on Wednesday evening at the Gallagher/Qualigence event at the B.O.B. Building connections and your network can happen in any format and I am so grateful to know James and be inspired in his approaches to employee development and strategic leadership. I also got to meet many of our Grand Rapids HRUnite! group (Stephanie Schoenherr, Lynne Mahan and Meegan Fritsma), see old friends and make new ones!
  2. Opening and Closing Keynotes – Opening keynote, Herman Moore (former Detroit Lion who now owns several businesses including a staffing company) and Closing Keynote and author, Amanda Meyer. I was truly inspired and reminded by each of these amazing speakers how HR has the ability to influence and impact the organizations and communities we serve with courage, curiosity and challenging complacency.
  3. Gordon Thompson – I got to see my dear friend and #HRHero Gordon Thompson win the MISHRM Top HR Professional of the Year award. Gordon has had a significant impact on my approach to HR leadership and I was honored to nominate him for this well-deserved award. Congrats to Heather Merrick, an advocate for hiring veterans and a member of the AHRM leadership team for winning Top Volunteer of the Year for her dedication to her local chapter and advocacy.
  4. Meet the MISHRM Influencer Team (#MISHRM21MIT) – it was my absolute pleasure to help kick off this really cool initiative thanks to MISHRM Council members Kristen Davidson and Noel Parsons. Your 2021 team had social media on fire which included Molly Shelton (twitter @HRFlexTech) , Feliz Rodriguez, Amy Pecha and Laura Van Houtte. These #HRAwesome individuals joined me in sharing great pics and takeaways from breakout and general sessions from their HR point of view and totally rocked it! More to come as we all have ON-Demand access to this years sessions.
  5. Pie in the face – SHRM Foundation Fundraiser. What better way to contribute to a good cause then throwing a pie in the face of James Reid. Best $100 ever spent on two aspects. Someone I admired in our broader SHRM community, Ed Carpenter, a member of Indiana SHRM and fierce champion of bringing awareness to the benefits of the SHRM Foundation to our community, passed away unexpectedly a few weeks ago. I only got to meet Ed in person once (at #SHRM21) and we had a great laugh together. He was a special man and I wanted to make a donation in his name – plus had Ed heard about this crazy idea (thanks to our MISHRM council) he would have taken it and tried to one up us next year. However the more obvious reason is – pie in the face of James Reid. That is priceless entertainment in itself for a good cause. James I hope you enjoyed those pies -I diverted from everyone else to you on Wednesday.

With this being the first in-person conference since the pandemic hit – there are always opportunities to improve (I was just happy to be there). Grab and go meal options were made available for some meals to allow social distancing (hope that goes away next year).

I loved the set up of the exhibit hall this year with more space and lunch directly in the hall. Lunch on Thursday btw was AMAZING (two thumbs up to our event planning team Alison and Meg from EventsNorth for that choice). Breakout rooms were deliberately smaller to allow social distancing and limited audience which made it hard to get into some sessions. I appreciated the On-Demand option made available (which I have) so that made that FOMO go away knowing I will be able to catch that one session or two later. PS – it is still available for purchase through November 15, 2021 at

Pros and Cons of the format this year.

Pros – Breakouts all on Thursday, exhibit hall set up (larger booths/ability to engage in conversations with both exhibitors and attendees), conference app, seeing all the awesome people. Thanks to the efforts of the entire council including Conference Director, Noel Parsons and the dynamic team at EventsNorth, my conference experience did not disappoint.

Cons – I would love to see a dedicated track or pre-conference session added for Talent -Acquisition (maybe something involving Tim Sackett) with speakers that are not vendors selling tools for recruiting.

Another aspect (not MISHRM’s fault) – I would prefer that vendors sponsoring a section of the event refrain from going into a sales capabilities presentation for 15 minutes when you are introducing a keynote speaker. It is worth a reminder for any vendors that sponsor events and has never happened for as long as I can remember at MISHRM at least on the main stage. You can easily tell me about you and your company without showing me a many, many slide power point which includes your “why us and not them” spiel. Awkward especially when most of those you were highlighting as not being great were in the audience (or at least in the building). It felt like that time my parents took me to Florida when I was a kid and we had to sit through a 4 hour timeshare presentation to get 4 free tickets to Disney and a free popcorn maker. Except this time at the end was a keynote speaker. The exhibit hall did close earlier than normal so that was a slight bummer. I would have loved for it to stay open through end of day on Thursday.

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!! I am excited about #MISHRM22 taking place on October 19-21. 2022 in Grand Rapids. If you haven’t heard THE Marcus Buckingham is the keynote speaker. You know author of “Now Discover your Strengths” one of my favorite business/personal development books of all time. #hugefan I am hopeful and optimistic that next year we will be back in GR in our usual numbers, and all of our conference traditions and fun will be back in full force. Until then, I celebrate everyone who helped create these #MISHRM21 memories and look forward to watching those sessions I missed On-Demand – because if you were following the #MISHRM21MIT – there were some amazing ones indeed!