How To Thrive in HR: SHRM15 Recap

THRIVEIf you missed this year’s SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) conference (which wrapped this past Wednesday), you missed an incredible couple of days (authentic connections, great jokes, and inspiring speeches).

But never fear, we’ve got the highlights for you, including our cliff notes from Marcus Buckingham’s phenomenal keynote speech on the 3 essential shifts facing HR.


Conference highlights (like bacon….)

Of course there were countless highlights over the full 5 days, but let’s start with the ultimate highlight: FREE BACON.

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Well done SHRM Bloggers, you gave the people exactly what they wanted.

Another high point was great colleagues with excellent senses of humor...

How To Thrive in HR: SHRM15 Wanted Poster

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But our favorite highlight by far was Marcus Buckingham’s presentation on the 3 Radical Shifts facing HR.

3 Shifts Radical HR Shifts

Buckingham is a best-selling author and expert in personal strengths assessment. Specifically, how to identify and utilize individual strengths to build better, high-performing, teams.

He kicked off his stirring keynote by sharing his passionate belief that right now, it’s more exciting than ever to be in HR.

That scaling technology, global economy, and a multi-generation workforce have combined to make “now,” more thrilling (and challenging) than ever. And moving into the future, there are 3 Radical Shifts that should be demanding our attention.

Shift 1: Focus on the leader

Shift #1: What, or rather who is driving our performance metrics? Why do the top-performing teams engage, deliver, and thrive? 

Team Leaders.

Buckingham pointed out the obvious (yet profound) irony of most HR structures: everything we know about Talent Management, Human Capital Management, and Performance & Engagement Analytics suggests that:

-The effectiveness of “High - performing” teams is directly driven by their leaders. In other words, teams are as effective as their leaders.

-Yet these Team Leaders are almost always the last ones to see their own team's data. 

-Rather than build team management tools for those crucial Team Leaders, we design and build them for the organizational structure.
Bottom line, team engagement and performance is directly correlated to the quality of the Team Leader. Yet ironically, they’re not the one we’re investing in, or working to empower. As Buckingham put it: 
“We know the [engagement] data varies by team leader, yet we’ve built an entire system that disempowers the person who can drive the data. We need to change all that."

To achieve this, we need to be willing to reevaluate how we support our Team Leaders, on a practical and daily basis. Buckingham argued that any Team Leader or Manager,
has 3 incredibly practical questions:
  • What can my team do?
  • What are they doing (this week)?
  • How are they feeling (are they empowered & content, or about to quit?).

Essentially, we need to shift our focus from pleasing the organizational structure, to practically empowering our Team Leaders, aka the ones actually driving our key results.

Shift 2: Move Big Data vs. Real-Time, Reliable Data

Despite the inherent sexiness of percentages, anyone who’s worked with statistics know’s a lot can go wrong when it comes to measuring data. For example: 
But on a higher level, the bigger problem isn’t how we measure, it’s what we’re measuring. We’re often so focused on measuring what’s going wrong (lost productivity, employee turnover), we don’t ever really figure out what our teams are getting right, and how they’re doing it.
Buckingham said he is always having people come to him saying they want to “build more teams like their best, highest-performing teams,” but when he asks these executives who those teams are, and why they are succeeding, they always reply that they "have no idea." 
What can we take away from all this? 
It means we need data (even if we can’t eradicate subjectivity or measure it perfectly), there’s simply too much information to not boil it down into succinct, tidy percentages.
But if we really want to measure engagement and productivity effectively, we need to make sure we’re getting the right data.
Which is why, as Buckingham argued, we need to shift our focus “from ‘Big Data’ to real-time reliable data.”

Shift 3: From “leadership” to what the best team leaders actually do

So the bad news is, our data isn’t telling us everything we need to know (why are top-performers succeeding and how can we scale it?). The good news is, we can easily change what we’re asking, and how we’re asking it.
Buckingham suggests asking these 7 engagement questions, and then comparing where the most productive teams strongly agree: 
How to Thrive in HR: 7 Good Engagement Questions
   *Content credit: Marcus Buckingham, Creative/Visual Credit: Anna Spady

Interestingly, none of these questions are actually a rating of the effectiveness of the Team Leader, they're entirely about the employee’s unique experience; yet that experience is obviously impacted by their Leader (because great leaders inspire). 
Buckingham said essentially, what every employee is really needing, and asking of their employer is: 
“‘Can you help me find where I’m at my best, and can you help me do a lot of it?”
Formal employee evaluations once every 6 months will not answer this question. Rather, he said if team leaders did just one thing, it should be:
“Frequent, Strengths-Based Check-Ins About Near-Term Future Work.”
Meaning weekly, 10-20 minute check-ins about upcoming work, during which you ask 2 simple questions:

1. What are your priorities this week? 

2. How can I help? 

He clarified, that great leaders don’t “check up” on their people, but “check in” with their team. People don’t really want feedback, they want input: 
"We don’t want feedback. We want attention... Feedback is about the past, input is about the future... Don’t tell me where I stand, help me get better.”
This 10 minutes a week, “light-touch” coaching is what real, effective, leadership is all about. It's pivotal, and should be top priority. Buckingham recommended if managers pushback, claiming they’re “too busy leading,” then to clarify that this coaching isn’t in addition to everything else, it’s instead of everything else.
It’s the linchpin.
Buckingham closed his keynote by advising us to make room for Leaders to lead according to their strengths:
“Average in anything looks the same, excellence in anything looks different.”



Out of all the infinite lessons of the week, our big take-aways were:

- Bacon is delicious.

- Make empowering your Team Leader your new life goal.

- Don’t get too hung up on “Big Data,” focus on the best data (more - often, and better defined engagement questions).

- Weekly 10 minute check-ins (not check-ups) will always trump traditional performance reviews.

- Successful Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, your job is to figure out how you can uniquely support each Leader.


What does it take to Thrive in HR? 

At the end of the day, your job as someone working in HR (or as a Benefit Solutions provider) is to empower your people. To find and recruit the best talent and resources, and to do whatever it takes to equip them.
Part of that equipping means finding the right technology (HRIS, HRMS, Benefits Administration Systems) and tools to fit your teams’ unique needs, meaning lots of shopping around (multiple Request for Proposals, etc.)


Our job is to help you find what you need, faster.

Learn more