A #SHRM18 Interview with Valerie Grubb



One of my favorite parts of the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition is seeing friends that I don’t see enough of and meeting new and amazing folks to add to my networking group. I added more than a few last year, but one of my favorites (there were many) was Val Grubb. Val is a speaker, coach, writer and consultant. All that plus a huge ball of energy. She and I have become friends, and it is a highlight when we are able to talk. I recommend her sessions enthusiastically and she should be at the top of anyone’s list of people to meet in Chicago. She has a new book available at the SHRMStore called Clash of the Generations, and I recommend it.

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

Managing employees is hard. It always has been. However, I think it’s gotten harder as the workplace is much more crowded with employees spanning decades. Seasoned workers just aren’t retiring in the numbers we expected, so they’re still in the mix with Gen X, Millennials and now Gen Z. It’s a pretty crowded place with wildly different expectations from generation to generation.  It’s made being a people leader much more difficult. 

It’s interesting because every time a new generation enters the workforce, it’s like we take a step back. When Gen X first entered the workforce in the early ’80s, most every news story proclaimed them as disrespectful cynics unwilling to embrace the country’s traditional work ethic. The Washington Post chided Gen X with the headline “Grow Up, Crybabies” while Newsweek decried Gen X as the “Whiny Generation.” We saw similar headlines when Millennials showed up in the office.

It’s important to understand that it’s an adjustment every time a new generation comes into the office, and, as we all know, change is hard. If you’ve been managing employees for a long time, and been good at it, it’s challenging to immediately start doing things differently when a younger generation arrives on the scene.

That’s where my book comes in. The financial crisis helped companies with turnover because employees were hunkering down. Not so anymore. If your younger generation is unhappy, they are WAY more willing to jump ship for another opportunity that makes them happier! It’s not just about money anymore for this generation, it’s about really liking what they do and feeling valued. So while change takes time, managers don’t really have the luxury of figuring it out over the long-term because the turnover will kill productivity.

And, oh, by the way, younger managers don’t have that luxury, either, because you need all your employees working at full capacity. So figuring out how to engage and motivate employees of all ages quickly is key to management success. Clash of the Generations can help with that.

Are there other key points from your session that you feel HR practitioners would learn from that are not covered in your book?

Well, I have four speaking gigs this year at SHRM on wildly different topics so, YES, I have a LOT more to say outside of my book! Here is a breakdown of my sessions:

  • 6/16/18, 1:00-5:00 p.m.: Pre-Conference Workshop: Essentials of Project Management for the HR Professional
  • 6/17/18, 8:00 a.m.-noon: Pre-Conference Workshop: Senior Negotiation Skills for the HR Executive
  • 6/18/18, 10:45 a.m.-noon: MEGA SESSION: Elevate Your Game: Moving from Tactical Thinker to Strategic Leader
  • 6/19/18, 2:10-2:28 p.m.: SMART STAGE: Grow Your Personal Brand, Grow Your Career

Immediately following each presentation, I will be signing copies of my book in the SHRMStore.

What made you decide to write this book?

My clients certainly were a big driver as well as just my friends in corporate America who are managing employees. It’s a constant theme that the “old” tactics aren’t working anymore to motivate and engage employees. As leaders, we’ve got to mix it up and ramp up our management game in order to get the best from employees of all ages.

Managing employees has also been a strong passion of mine since the first day I was put in charge of an all-male union maintenance crew where the person closest to me in age was almost 15 years my senior. That was way back in 1990, and I’ve managed thousands of employees since then. My book is a culmination of real-world first-hand trial and error coupled with research on what other companies are doing right (and how you can implement these tactics immediately into your work environment).

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 big believer that HR professionals MUST have a strong hand on the financial aspects of the company. Getting a seat at the table requires it. So the book I most often recommend to HR professionals is:

  • Financial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean by Karen Berman and Joe Knight

Are there other speakers you plan to see at SHRM18 and why?

Jennifer McClure is tops on my list! I spoke at my first DisruptHR event earlier this year and knowing she founded this whole movement (that is now worldwide), I’m looking forward to her insights and strategies for stepping up my game!

I also love me some Steve Browne and Cy Wakeman! They are both fabulously smart and incredibly entertaining so ALWAYS on my list!

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

I LOVE the aquarium! I think it is one of the BEST in the world AND I love the view of Lake Michigan. June is a beautiful time to walk along the lake and clear your thoughts!


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