You may recognize the names Steve Browne, Matt Stollak and Craig Fisher. Some of them led sessions at the SHRM 2016 Annual Conference and Expo in Washington D.C., and they are each innovating and shaking up the industry for the better.
Steve Browne, an HR professional for more than 25 years, is the executive director of human resources for LaRosa’s, Inc., a regional pizzeria restaurant chain in Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southwest Indiana. Matt Stollak is an associate professor at St. Norbert College who teaches courses that cover all aspects of human resources, which includes his world-famous business statistics class. Craig Fisher, head of employer brand at CA Technologies, is the author of Inbound Recruiting, as well as a popular keynote speaker at tech, social media, HR/recruiting, and sales conferences worldwide.
We chatted with these HR heavyweights to understand the biggest takeaways from SHRM as well as get their take on where HR is headed and what you should be focusing on right now.
What are the biggest trends you noticed at SHRM?
Steve Browne: The biggest trend I noticed is that people want to know the purpose and mission of their work. They want to know the “why.” They get the “what” and “how,” but the “why” is missing. It’s missing in HR as a field and in organizations. However, the employees are seeking this context and expect it — especially from HR.
Matt Stollak: SHRM 2016 demonstrated that new HR is still the old HR. A significant amount of breakout session time was dedicated to the same subjects that could have been featured at a SHRM conference five years ago. At the same time, if you were able to escape the regular sessions and go to the SMART Stage or the pop up sessions at the Social Solutions booth, many of the SHRM bloggers and other speakers were providing cutting-edge ideas on both personal and professional development.
Craig Fisher: The focus this year seemed slightly less techy than in years past.
What surprised you the most — either from other sessions you attended or discussions that you had?
Steve Browne: I’m surprised by how HR continues to lag on some key issues. People are just starting to embrace looking at people as talent and also understanding that branding and engagement are a reality. HR practitioners want to be involved and lead efforts around these topics, but they’re still looking for mechanisms to do that consistently.
Matt Stollak: It was nice to see SHRM take a proactive stance toward Snapchat and podcasting. Given how hesitant SHRM was to embrace social several years ago, it was a welcome change. SHRM was looking to diversify how individuals consume the conference experience. For those HR professionals not able to attend, these options provide an opportunity for individuals to see what they might be missing and be enticed to attend in the future. For those in D.C., it enabled them to get a different perspective or catch up on a topic they might not have been able to fit in. It may also have convinced a few individuals to bring back that experience to their own workplace as a way to improve branding or look to capture a different audience for their organization.
What is one key takeaway from SHRM that HR professionals need to know about now?
Steve Browne: Employees want you to acknowledge them and what they do for your organization on a regular basis. This isn’t a generational issue — it’s a human issue. The days of waiting six months to a year to tell employees how they are performing are gone. HR has the chance to redefine this key aspect of the workplace, and I hope they do.
Matt Stollak: While the emphasis is often on learning and earning recertification credits, the real takeaway from SHRM is always the networking and reaffirmation of the friendships you’ve gained over the years of attending. Whether it is reconnecting or meeting someone in real life for the first time, the laughter and new insights gained from colleagues is the true value.
Craig Fisher: Although the footprint of HR tech at SHRM 2016 seemed a bit smaller this year, the indication is that there is some consolidation in that sector. The last couple of years has shown many smaller tech firms merging with larger ones to create a more robust offering. That’s good news for HR leaders hoping to create a great candidate experience for job seekers, and a smooth customer experience for internal employees and new hires.