A #SHRM18 Interview - On Purpose - with Steve Browne



I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Steve Browne for 10 years now. We met when we were both volunteer leaders for SHRM at the state level and have been good friends ever since. Steve has gone on to be a member of the Member Advisory Council and is now an established member of the SHRM Board. If you don’t know Steve, you need to. He is one of the most engaging members of our profession. His goal is to meet everyone at every SHRM event he attends, and damned if he doesn’t try! He is the author of HR on Purpose!!, a best-seller in the SHRMStore. Steve recently answered some questions about his book, the sessions he will be leading at SHRM18 and what he plans to do in Chicago while he’s there.

What highlights would an HR practitioner gain from reading your book? Why do you think that?

I think we’ve taken HR and muddled it up so much and made it more complicated than it really is. I’m not sure why we’ve chosen to do this, but I’ve always felt that HR is more straightforward than people make it out to be. This current state of our field is one of the main reasons I wrote HR on Purpose.


Would you expand on what made you decide to write this book?

I wanted to put something out to HR practitioners, and honestly anyone who regularly works with people, that was simplified and different. The difference is that the tone of the book is positive. Being positive in today’s workplace, and in society as a whole, is seen as daunting and challenging. I don’t think that’s the case, nor has it ever been. People can choose whether to look at people positively or negatively. I choose to see the value in others and dig into why they are unique.

Great HR is “people-based,” and we’ve tried to make it something that deflates and avoids the human condition. That’s a shame because the reason HR is so fantastic is that it’s messy and unpredictable. That brings an excitement and a sense of adventure to every day. Not many professions can offer this. The idea that I get to intentionally work with humans makes me geeked! I wanted to share that message of encouragement to other HR professionals so that they could be renewed and love what they do once again.


Are there other key points from your sessions at SHRM18 that you feel HR practitioners would learn from that aren’t covered in your book?

I would describe my sessions as “real-world HR”. By nature, I’m a storyteller. I enjoy sharing current and past stories to frame how HR can be practiced in a simple, positive and fun—yes, fun!—way. If people are kind enough to come to my sessions, I think they’ll learn ways to do HR differently and more realistically. They’ll enjoy being the HR leader in their organizations!


What is a book you’d recommend, other than your own, that HR folks would benefit from? It doesn’t have to be a straight HR book.

I’m a voracious reader. It’s hard to recommend just one book. However, I’ll give you my current read, [which is] called Attention Pays by Neen James. Neen is a fantastic human who is trying to move the needle so that people are intentional and pay attention to each other. Again, it sounds “simple,” but people don’t do it. I love her approach and her insights.


What speakers do you plan to see at SHRM18 and why?

Speakers I plan to see at SHRM18 are ones that stretch me to take in new perspectives. I’ll make sure to see several Smart Stage presentations and also folks willing to reshape the field of HR. I tend to skip the tech-focused sessions. I love to be challenged, and I’ll find those speakers [who challenge me] and be in the front row!


What is your can’t-miss recommendation for Chicago—other than the conference, of course?

The one thing I’ll make sure to check out when I’m in Chicago outside the conference is live music of some sort. It could be blues or rock. Live music is something that I thoroughly enjoy, and Chicago offers an incredible music scene. So, if someone wants to see live music with me, I’d love to get a clan of us out to see something amazing!


Steve Browne will be signing copies of his book at the SHRM18 Store HR on Purpose!! at the following times:

Tuesday at 12:10 p.m. - 12:45p.m.

Wednesday at 11:25p.m. - 11:45p.m.



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