Takeaways from 2018 MNSHRM State Conference

By Marilyn Weiss | Organizational Effectiveness

Oct 23
2018 MNSHRM State Conference

The Minnesota State Council of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) held its annual meeting in St. Cloud last week. It was jam packed with wide-reaching content – evidence of the vast complexities facing the HR function and corporate cultures today. I want to share just a bit from the informative and inspirational content shared at this event.

The War on Talent is Real.

At the root of this issue is our changing demographics – there are more people 65+ years old in the United States than school age children. It’s a mathematical equation that doesn’t add up when it comes to Workplace talent needs, both now and in the future. Jim Morgan of MRA – The Management Association, shared creative solutions, such as leveraging and relocating talent from U.S. territories who possess a U.S. passport, tapping the increasing pool of paroled prisoners, supporting workers with disabilities, and creating “phased retirement programs” to keep Boomers involved in the Workforce as coaches and mentors.

Jim also mentioned the need to meet increasing demand for “New Collar Jobs” – roles that don’t require formal education but do require specialized skills, often pertaining to technology. Bottom line: The war on talent will force all organizations to be more creative than ever in hiring and retaining employees.

Workflex is a Hot Topic.

Nancy Conway of SHRM shared best practices for combating the war on talent with Workplace flexibility. She stressed that organizations must be clear on what success looks like and measure effectiveness in terms of employee satisfaction and retention. Mari Ryan, CEO at Advancing Wellness, shared that flexibility nearly always rises to the top as a key contributor to Workplace Wellbeing, but cautioned against communicating a Workflex program and then not delivering on the promise. That would create a significant negative impact on employee morale and culture.

I’d also caution against assuming you know what type of flexibility employees really want based on engagement survey results, without taking the time to really listen to them and understand the what and why behind survey scores.  At LINX Workforce Innovations, we specialize in going deep with employees to understand what will truly contribute positively to their experience at work.

Business Partners Get a Seat at the Table.

Jerry Olson of Olson HR Consulting shared the importance of HR professionals becoming a true business partner within the organizations they serve. He gave practical advice on how HR professionals can learn to think more like CEOs by continually asking themselves these questions:

  1. Where is the organization going? (vision)
  2. Who is needed to get there? (talent)
  3. How do we measure progress? (metrics)

It was a simple message: for HR professionals to have a seat at the table, they need to bring creative solutions that help answer these key questions. Of course, we all know HR has historically been very comfortable with talent needs, a core competency of our function, but we must learn to collaborate and align on long-term vision as well as bring creative solutions for metrics that matter.

Culture can’t be bought

Sean Abbas of Threads Culture shared powerful statistics that prove culture can’t be bought. For example, organizations spend $720 million each year to improve employee engagement (Bersin & Associates – now part of Deloitte), yet employee engagement has dropped nearly 70% (Gallup). Alarming, and at the same time liberating – especially because it can cost very little to impact company culture in a positive way. At LINX Workforce Innovations, we hear concerns about diving into understanding employee experiences because leadership anticipates the action plans to be costly. That’s simply not true. What is costly is what organizations are spending to treat symptoms of bad culture, like high turnover, unemployment expenses, low productivity, etc. Sean believes better leadership is what improves culture – it starts with how people are treated!  I completely agree!

Positivity Powers Engagement

Devin Hughes, who owns his own training and development firm, shared his research on how positive environments lead to better performance, increased productivity, better health, and more resilient teams. He urged us to look for people who know how to cultivate positivity because they create an endless supply of hope, optimism, and confidence. That has the power to increase Workplace engagement, resulting in better business performance.

The flip side of this is that negativity is systemic, too! Workplaces can’t always be the most joyful places, but if you can be a change agent for positivity, it can be an advantage for your organization. The good news is that happiness is a choice, and it matters.  Each individual has the power to make a big difference for those around them.  Watch this Southwest Airlines video to see for yourself!

These were just a few of the things I learned by attending MN SHRM 2018. If you were there and have something to add, please share and add to the conversation!

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About the Author

Marilyn has a passion for Workforce Wellness. As co-founder of LINX WorkForce Innovations, she is keen on discovering and amplifying the “Voices of Employees” who are the “Consumers of the Workplace,” so that the right WorkForce solutions can be co-created the first time. Previously, she co-founded SIVO Insights where she provides thought leadership and creative thinking for Fortune 500 companies by uncovering consumer insights and experiences. For every endeavor, she believes in the power of a strong company culture, based on authentic connections, innovative approaches and a growth mindset.