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Creating Better Workplaces - Meet the #SHRM19 Bloggers




Creating better workplaces starts with a commitment to excellence. And there's no better place to begin or continue this commitment than the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition – #SHRM19.

HR's role sits uniquely at the intersection of people and business – and this positioning presents unique challenges and opportunities. Hot-button issues facing society have permeated our workplaces as technology and innovation continue to change how work gets done. The 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition will keep human resources professionals informed, ahead of the curve and ready for what's next. From the bold new ideas that are transforming how we think about work, to pragmatic advice on how to solve common HR challenges, the wide selection of educational sessions at #SHRM19 will help HR to make work better.

Nearly 200 concurrent sessions will provide a complete education for HR professionals at every stage of their career. Based on the SHRM Competency Model, these sessions will delve into the cutting-edge trends that will impact your workplace with the following tracks:

  • Workplace Strategy 
  • Technology
  • Business Acumen & Metrics
  • Compliance
  • Global HR 
  • Leadership
  • Communication 
  • Talent 
  • Compensation & Benefits

Thousands of attendees looking to make work better will travel to Las Vegas June 23-26 for #SHRM19 – and the SHRM Blog Squad will be a major part of the conference experience.

We are honored to officially announce the #SHRM19 bloggers, all of whom truly represent this year’s conference theme, Creating Better Workplaces. These highly talented HR professionals are not only "social influencers" who can reach a huge global audience, they are also people with a passion for learning, sharing and networking. HR practitioners, consultants, educators and business owners, the #SHRM19 bloggers will be heavily engaged with attendees from start to finish, while virtually connecting millions of HR professionals from around the world.  

Whether you're attending the conference in person or watching all the action via social media, you’ll want to keep up with this amazing group of professionals starting now and continuing well beyond June’s activities in Las Vegas. We are honored to host this powerful group of bloggers and cannot wait to connect them with all of you – online and IRL – in real life ... at #SHRM19!  

Meet the #SHRM19 Bloggers: 

KIran Ali                             @Kiran_Ali91

Baskaran Ambalavanan     @baski_LA 

Riccardo Antonelli              @ricc_anto

Anish Aravind                     @AnishAravind

Osasu Arigbe                      @OsasuArigbe

John Baldino                       @jbalive 

Milena Berry                         @milenaberry

Wendy Berry                       @thewendyberry 

Meghan Biro                       @MeghanMBiro

Tessa Brown                        @TessaBrownHR

Amanda Brunson                @TheHRPanda 

Dawn Burke                           @DawnHBurke

Cecilia Clark                         @ceciliaclark923

Wendy Dailey                     @wyndall93

Andrea Devers                    @thegirlinHR

David Ducheyne                   @dducheyne

Kris Dunn                            @kris_dunn 

Hanadi El Sayyed                  @Hana_ElSayyed                  

Keith Enochs                       @KeithCEnochs 

Carlos Escobar                    @cescobar78 

Ben Eubanks                       @beneubanks

Brett Farmiloe                    @BrettFarmiloe   

Omari Faulkner                  @Omari_Faulkner

Diane Fennig                      @FansofFennig

Craig Fisher                           @Fishdogs

Mark Fogel                         @HC3

Michael Haberman            @MikeHaberman

Paula Harvey                      @Paula4Harvey 

Tiya Jaison                          @tiyajaison 

Michelle Kohlhof               @MKohlHR

Paul LaLonde                     @HRPaul49 

Sharlyn Lauby                    @sharlyn_lauby               

Lina Le                               @linale90 

Kyra Matkovich                 @KyraMatkovichHR 

Jessica Merrell                  @jmillermerrell

Eric Meyer                         @eric_b_meyer

John Nykolaiszyn               @CigarSPHR

Christopher Orozco           @ChrisOrozco72 

Jeff Palkowski                   @JeffPally 

Shweta Pathak                  @shweta_hr

Melanie Peacock               @doublempeacock 

Claire Petrie                       @_strclaire 

Nicole Roberts                   @NRobertsHR 

Renee Robson                   @ReneeRoberz 

Josh Rock                           @JRock96 

Dave Ryan                         @DaveTheHRCzar

Tim Sackett                       @TimSackett 

Mofota Sefali                     @Mofota 

Brett Skinner                       @BrettSkinner

Mike Spinale                        @MikeSpinale

Tracie Sponenberg            @traciespon

Erin Stevens                        @ErinStevens

Jenni Stone                       @HRRockStar1 

Julie Ann Sullivan              @JASatLNE 

Jon Thurmond                  @Jon_Thurmond

Gemma Toth                     @GemaTothSCP

Michael Vandervort          @mikevandorvort

Phyllis Wallace                  @misspdw 

Christine Walters               @christinevbw

Ben Watts                            @wattsnextBen

Sue-Ellen Watts                  @Sel_Watts

Allan Weitzman                @allan_weitzman 

Mary Williams                  @conmkw

Mike Woodward               @DrWoody

Katharine Zaleski                 @KZaleski


We can't wait to see you in Las Vegas!





Opportunity Knocks. Let it in! #SHRM19


Picture it. Las Vegas. 2007. (Said in my best Sophia Petrillo impression). It was my first ever SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition. I was a little over a year into my first HR Management job. I’d never been to a conference of this magnitude, and I didn’t know anyone. I went to the Careerbuilder party at the Hard Rock (featuring the Barenaked Ladies) by myself. I ate alone. And drank alone. But I learned so much. I walked away invigorated and a little bit exhausted, with a suitcase full of tchotchkes from the expo and a head full of ideas.

Twelve years later, I am going back to Vegas, but things are different. I’ve been to the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition almost every year since. And over those twelve years, I’ve built more relationships than I can count - and many friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. I’ve witnessed the change that social media has brought to the conference experience - and have benefited immensely from connecting with people offline.

So when someone asks me “what are you most excited about for this year’s conference?”, my answer is not the great line up of speakers or the armloads of swag from the expo hall - it’s the opportunity to once again reconnect with this progressive community of human resource professionals. It’s the opportunity to learn together by learning from each other. It’s the opportunity to see my friends and talk shop (or non-shop). It’s my annual booster shot that reignites my passion for this field and sends me home chock-full of ideas and motivated to make a difference at work.

My advice to you, as you start planning your conference experience is to make sure you build time into your schedule to intentionally connect with others. If you have to skip a session to go grab drinks with a bunch of your new HR friends - do it!! I guarantee that you’ll learn just as much and you’ll leave with the souvenir of an expanded network that you’ll be able to draw upon for years to come.





Three Tips to Provide a Positive Workplace Environment for Employees in Alcohol Recovery

I've tried to quit drinking more times than I can remember during my lifetime. I'm in long-term drug recovery from meth, a drug known for the psychological cravings being arguably the most difficult to overcome. Not a single day goes by that I don't think about how difficult kicking alcohol is compared to meth. Alcohol is all around us. It's on billboards driving to work, on radio ads while we listen to music at work, and encouraged for happy hour after we get off work.

My company is located in a shared coworking space. Every day, I walk by kegs of free beer provided for our members just to get to the coffee machine. Free beer and happy hours are amazing and can improve workplace culture, but happy hour can quickly turn sad for someone who's secretly battling addiction. I own a staffing agency, which recruits felons and people in recovery. People who work at other companies in our offices come up to me everyday to confess their journey of recovery. It got me thinking. How many people are secretly struggling at work day to day? And is there anything companies can do to provide support without prying? Below are some tips I came up with as someone who does struggle. My hope is that at least one HR person reads this blog and considers implementing these simple changes. You never know, you might save a life.  

1. Provide support: In our company, we are very open about addiction and our employees are not ashamed to come to us with their struggles because we provide support. Your company may never be that open depending on what type of business you're in, but you can still provide support without asking questions or employees confessing struggles. One simple way is to offer employees PTO for mental health days. The amount of days and how you go about it is up to you, but it's one way to provide support without asking questions. There are also great virtual recovery tools employers can provide and they aren't expensive compared to treatment. One I recently learned about is called Freedom 365. 

2. Include alternatives: The other day I received an email inviting everyone out to a happy hour. The invite said something along the lines of "Have a drink on us! First drink, free!" I was thinking, dang, can a girl get some cheese sticks or a chicken wing? I am in no way suggesting any company or organization change culture completely to cater to those in recovery. In fact, we don't want to be excluded because there is alcohol present. It would just be nice to have options that focus less on booze so we can focus more on being present and not fighting social pressures.  

3. Plan activities: It's inevitable that there will be a lot of alcohol at holiday parties and celebrations. Many times these events include a lot of standing around drinking and talking. And drinking. And talking. Which is so much fun for people who drink and can listen to the same slurring conversations all night long. This environment can be really uncomfortable for people in recovery. One really simple way to combat that is to add a couple of activities. Perhaps plan a themed party where there are things to do or book a venue that has both a bar and games. 

After many conversations with people in recovery, I believe I speak for most when I say we don't expect anyone to cater to us. We understand it's us who have to deal with the problem, but why not start conversations to help with a solution




Meet #StateLineCrew #SHRM19 Blogger – Paul LaLonde

The #StateLineCrew is an informal group of human resources professionals primarily from Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois that meet regularly near the Wisconsin-Illinois “state line” to network, share stories and ideas, support one another, and bond over food and beverages. The group formed shortly after the 2018 SHRM Annual Conference & Exhibition in Chicago and continues to evolve.

Four #StateLineCrew members (Paul LaLonde, Kyra Matkovich, Jeff Palkowski, and Mary Williams) will be participating as part of the #SHRM19Blogger Team at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas.

Read more about the #StateLineCrew from our previous SHRM Blog post “Meet the #StateLineCrew – Introduction.”

Now, meet #StateLineCrew #SHRM19 Blogger, Paul LaLonde…

What is your day job?

I am VP of Operations & HR at Voluntary Action Center in Sycamore, IL. We're a nonprofit that provides community transit and nutrition services to seniors, persons with disabilities, and low-income persons.

What is your experience/involvement with SHRM?

I've been a member of national SHRM since 2014, and a member of the IL Fox Valley SHRM group since 2016. I currently, serve as Secretary of the Board of Directors for the IL FV SHRM.

What are you most looking forward to as a #SHRM19Blogger?

Sharing my thoughts and perspectives with HR pros across the country and learning from them and how their experiences can enhance my own!

Name one speaker or session that you are most looking forward to at #SHRM19.

There are two speakers I am most looking forward to. Erich Kurschat of Harmony Insights, who speaks Sunday afternoon, and Karlyn Borysenko from Zen Your Work. Both are such amazingly positive people whom I respect immensely.

What does the #StateLineCrew mean to you?

What began as an informal networking group has grown into a group of friends. I have such great respect for this group of HR people on a professional level, but more importantly on a personal level! I look forward to our meetups more as friends than as pros. We talk about our lives, our families, and our dreams. It's already grown in scope more than what I originally envisioned.

Why should others consider similar meetups like the #StateLineCrew in their areas?

Connecting with people on a friendship level is SO important in any profession, or any lifestyle. I consider these people my friends, more so than my colleagues. However, at the end of the day, making meaningful connections in any context is important. The #StateLineCrew has helped me keep my focus on getting better as a person.




#Nextchat RECAP: What Would You Do with More Time?


On April 24, @shrmnextchat chatted with Joyce Maroney (@WF_Institute), founder and executive director, Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. about "What Would You Do with More Time?" and how to efficiently manage time, the meaning of work-life fit, and best practices for productivity in your workplace. If you missed this excellent #Nextchat filled with great tips for maximizing your time, you can read all of the tweets HERE or below




Meet #StateLineCrew #SHRM19 Blogger – Kyra Matkovich


The #StateLineCrew is an informal group of human resources professionals primarily from Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois that meet regularly near the Wisconsin-Illinois “state line” to network, share stories and ideas, support one another, and bond over food and beverages. The group formed shortly after the 2018 SHRM Annual Conference & Exhibition in Chicago and continues to evolve.

Four #StateLineCrew members (Paul LaLonde, Kyra Matkovich, Jeff Palkowski, and Mary Williams) will be participating as part of the #SHRM19Blogger Team at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas.

Read more about the #StateLineCrew from our previous SHRM Blog post “Meet the #StateLineCrew – Introduction.”

Now, meet #StateLineCrew #SHRM19 Blogger, Kyra Matkovich…

What is your day job?

By day, I am a Senior HR Business Partner for Exact Sciences in Madison, WI.

What is your experience/involvement with SHRM?

 I have been a member of SHRM national since 2006 – although attended many events as a nonmember prior to that. My first SHRM Annual Conference was in 2008 in Chicago. I have been a member of 5 different local chapters in 3 different states, including Oregon, Colorado and Wisconsin.  In 2018, I finally stepped up to volunteer on the Boulder Area HR Association (Boulder, CO chapter) as their SHRM Foundation Director. I relocated to Madison, WI in late 2018, where I immediately became a member of the Greater Madison Area SHRM and also accepted an appointment to serve on the Wisconsin State SHRM Council as the Director of Communications for 2019.

What are you most looking forward to as a #SHRM19Blogger?

 I gain so much through relationships with other HR professionals. I love the opportunities to learn from the various speakers and vendors, but it all comes back to the people. I am most looking forward to getting to know the other #SHRM19Bloggers and their respective journeys to #SHRM19. I am so blessed to already know so many of the bloggers, but the opportunity to serve alongside them, sharing our experiences and discussing our takeaways is super inspiring!

Name one speaker or session that you are most looking forward to at #SHRM19.

Oh, man… That’s a tough one. There are so many! One that I’m really looking forward to seeing is fellow #SHRM19Blogger Mofota Sefali. She’ll be on the Smart Stage on Sunday, June 23 from 12:20 p.m. to 12:38 p.m. discussing Getting – and Staying – Social at #SHRM19! I had the opportunity to meet Mofota at #SHRM18 in Chicago at an #HRMeetup brunch (mmmm, mimosas). She is going to be fantastic – and I highly encourage everyone to take the 18 minutes to come support this amazing #HRPro who is traveling all the way from Johannesburg, South Africa! 

What does the #StateLineCrew mean to you?

I highly value community. Besides my family, community is my no. 1 focus. Having had experiences that were incredibly lonely, I have come to realize that everyone wants to feel like they belong, they matter, and they are cared for.  Having had the experiences I have – both good and bad – I have made it a personal mission to be very intentional and deliberate about building and nurturing my community – which includes, but is not limited to, my family, neighbors, my Village (I live in a Village! No joke!), my kids’ friends and their families, the teachers and staff at my kids’ school, the people I work with and the employees I serve, the communities that my company serves, my pharmacist, the lady at the checkout counter at the grocery store, and anyone willing to engage. The #StateLineCrew started as a way to connect with other local HR pros outside of our professional environment (and outside of SHRM organized events), share our HR experiences, support one another, and, well, drink beer. The #StatelineCrew has grown beyond bi-monthly casual gatherings. These are people I deeply appreciate, care for, and look to for HR insights. I appreciate each of them for who they are individually, and for their contributions to our industry. Our interactions both on and offline have turned into truly wonderful friendships.

Why should others consider similar meetups like the #StateLineCrew in their areas?

Meeting up with other HR pros in your area will allow you to build your network in a way that is much more intentional. It’s another way to build your community with others who understand your work and the types of things you experience every day. How far you take it, and what you choose to do with it, is up to you.  




Does an Employee Have An ADA ‘Disability’if it Substantially Limits The Major Life Activity of ‘Working’?


Ever since the amendments to the Americans with Disability Act took effect in 2009, management-side employment lawyers have preached to clients that they should focus more on accommodating a disability rather than whether an employee has a disability in the first place.

But, what if you have an employee who seeks an accommodation — time off — for a condition that she claims impacts her ability to work?


This is the elevator-speech set of facts from this Sixth Circuit opinion from last month. For what it’s worth, the employer did provide the employee with FMLA and other leave. But, finally, the company drew the line when the employee insisted on more leave and a new supervisor to accommodate her PTSD which supposedly limited only her ability to perform the major life activity of “work.”

But isn’t working a major life activity under the ADAAA? Well, it is. But here’s the catch. Cue the Sixth Circuit:

[T]he EEOC’s interpretive guide explains that an individual who asserts that she is disabled because she is unable to perform the major life activity of “working” must still show that “the impairment substantially limits . . . her ability to perform a class of jobs or broad range of jobs in various classes.” The EEOC further states that “[d]emonstrating a substantial limitation in performing the unique aspects of a single specific job is not sufficient to establish that a person is substantially limited in the major life activity of working.” Thus, … a plaintiff who asserts that her impairment substantially limits the major life activity of “working” is still required to show that her impairment limits her ability to “perform a class of jobs or broad range of jobs.”

In this particular case, the plaintiff only claimed that her PTSD impacted her ability to perform a single job. Therefore, she didn’t have a ‘disability’ under the ADA. And without a disability, she has no viable claim under the ADA.

Does this mean that employment lawyers will be giving new advice to clients when dealing with workplace accommodations? Probably not. Sure, an employer does not have to take the employee’s word on whether he or she has a ‘disability’. Instead, the employer can insist on the employee furnishing supporting medical records/information.

However, nothing about this case or this post raises the otherwise low bar for establishing a disability under the ADA. Therefore, when confronted with an employee’s request for accommodation, employers should continue to focus on determining whether they can provide a reasonable accommodation that will enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job without creating undue hardship for the business.

Originally posted on Employer Handbook blog.



Meet #StateLineCrew #SHRM19 Blogger – Jeff Palkowski


The #StateLineCrew is an informal group of human resources professionals primarily from Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois that meet regularly near the Wisconsin-Illinois “state line” to network, share stories and ideas, support one another, and bond over food and beverages. The group formed shortly after the 2018 SHRM Annual Conference & Exhibition in Chicago and continues to evolve.

Four #StateLineCrew members (Paul LaLonde, Kyra Matkovich, Jeff Palkowski, and Mary Williams) will be participating as part of the #SHRM19Blogger Team at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas.

Read more about the #StateLineCrew from our previous SHRM Blog post “Meet the #StateLineCrew – Introduction.”

Now, meet #StateLineCrew #SHRM19 Blogger, Jeff Palkowski…

What is your day job?

I work for the State of Wisconsin as a Senior Human Resources Specialist, currently supporting the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

What is your experience/involvement with SHRM?

I've been a SHRM member since 2004 and involved at the local SHRM chapter level on and off since then with Metro Milwaukee SHRM and Greater Madison Area SHRM. I’m finishing my 3rd year as Director of Government Affairs for Greater Madison Area SHRM, beginning my 1st year as Director of Government Affairs for the Wisconsin SHRM State Council, and I am a SHRM A-Team Advocacy Captain since 2011. I am part of the SHRM Foundation Leadership Circle and will be attending #SHRM19 as both a member of the #SHRM19 Blogger Team and as a SHRM Foundation Step Challenge Captain for Team #Marchers4HR.

What are you most looking forward to as a #SHRM19Blogger?

Wow, I can’t tell you how honored I am to be included with this group of exceptional HR leaders. Meeting many of them in real life will be a great experience. While I’ve been involved on social media for a few years, I just started blogging a few months after meeting many of the #SHRM18 Bloggers in Chicago, so I certainly meet the definition of a “rookie blogger” and hope to learn from the veterans! I am really looking forward to sharing my experiences with HR professionals before, during and after the Annual Conference in any way that I can and hopefully am able to do so with a bit of levity, a few puns, and some humor!

Name one speaker or session that you are most looking forward to at #SHRM19.

There are so many great speakers and sessions that it is hard to choose just one. I guess I am really excited about getting things started with the first General Session with Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. and Martha Stewart. Ms. Stewart created such an amazing, worldwide brand for herself and I’m interested to hear about the ups and downs of her incredible career. Also, from an HR public policy standpoint, I’m looking forward to sessions presented by Louis Lessig, Emily Dickens, Rebecca Peters, and Andrew Greenfield.

 What does the #StateLineCrew mean to you?

The #StateLineCrew has been what I’ll just call a fast growing and amazing journey. What started as a small get-together with a few HR pros that benefited from living a short drive from each other continues to grow into a networking phenomenon that others have taken interest in from across the country. We seem to grow in numbers with each subsequent event and I look forward to continuing the many professional and personal relationships that have evolved.

 Why should others consider similar meetups like the #StateLineCrew in their areas?

It becomes too easy for us to become tired and bogged down in our day-to-day tasks at work. The #StateLineCrew has been a great way to take a break, re-energize, and combine HR networking with both fun and friendship. As humans, we all have a need to connect with each other, share our dreams, and provide uplifting support to each one another when we need it. This is what our group has experienced, naturally. I encourage others to do the same and take the time to connect with others in whatever format works best for them in their regions.