A #SHRM19 Interview with Bob Kelleher


Increasing employee engagement within the companies I work for has always been something that intrigues me, and that I’m passionate about. When I saw Bob Kelleher’s titles for his sessions, and his company’s website, I knew I wanted to reach out to him and learn more. I hope the following information will encourage you to hear Bob speak at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition (#SHRM19) and learn more about what he does!

Be sure to catch his sessions:

Become a Best Employer! Master the 6 Step Process to Build your Unique Employment Brand - Monday, June 24 from 10:45 - 11:45 a.m.

Learn Why Empathy is the Single Biggest Engagement Driver - Tuesday, June 25 from 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.

I first asked Bob, what lead him to founding The Employee Engagement Group and what does his company specialize in?

Prior to starting his business, Bob was a CHRO with about 450 global HR people reporting into him. He focused on employee engagement as one of the pillars of the business strategy. He would get invited to speak at conferences about the role of engagement inside a business. Case studies were even done on the organization Bob was working for and his engagement initiatives! People started reaching out to him saying he should write a book, and in 2009, “Louder than Words” was born. He started speaking even more about his work and about the book, which lead to other companies reaching out for consulting help. He decided to start The Employee Engagement Group where he now works with companies of all sizes to evaluate their current engagement and then create a plan around increasing it. He shared with me that a lot of companies want to keep high performers in their current jobs for selfish reasons, and that 90 percent of people think that they need to leave their current jobs in order to get ahead. That is tragic! Bob works with companies to help them keep their current staff engaged, and keep those high performers in house. Allowing for new or different jobs and assignments is a necessity!

What is Bob's favorite part of owning his own business?

He loves to talk to HR professionals about entrepreneurship and to share what he’s learned along the way in hopes of helping others. He did say owning your own business can take some time to get used to. HR people are usually not good sales people, but you have to get better at this in order to market yourself, get invited for speaking engagements and ultimately sell your product or service. He also talked about the importance of the world being able to find you - being active on social media, having a crisp website, and networking are key. He does love to be his own boss and set the direction of his company. He is currently working with a company on building out their training and development curriculum, which is really exciting because he gets to create things for companies that actually sell and generate revenue. Within companies, HR is usually considered overhead, but in your own business, you (as HR) get to generate revenue and manage a P&L statement.

Bob’s session names caught my attention, so I asked him to share a little bit more about each one.

Become a Best Employer! Master the 6 Step Process to Build your Unique Employment Brand

So many companies spend huge amounts of money, resources and consultants trying to understand what their brand or product is. He said defining your employee value proposition is one of the least understood and invested in aspects of your brand, and it’s really important! When you can connect with employees on an emotional level, then they will be engaged. They will know exactly why they want to work for you. His session will talk about how to understand your brand, why people work for you and why they want to stay.

Learn Why Empathy is the Single Biggest Engagement Driver

Despite billions being spend on engagement, there are only incremental increases being seen. The majority of us are driven by what happens at work and what happens at home, but no one talks about what happens at home. What happens after work has as much to do with someone’s engagement as when they are at work. So how can you manage that? By being an empathetic manager. If one of your employees is going through a divorce for example, it’s going to be hard for them to be engaged. It’s typical for managers to think that engagement is getting someone to go above and beyond and give that discretionary effort. But how do you get that? By making sure your team knows that you care about them as a person in and outside of work. You can’t be effective in management without being empathetic and understanding what’s going on in your employees’ lives as a whole.

What does Bob look forward to most at SHRM’s Annual Conference and Exposition?

Bob said he learns best when he listens, and the SHRM annual conference allows him a few days of hearing top speakers from across the globe. Even though he’s a speaker himself, getting to sit in the audience is so powerful for him. Bob is still an HR leader at his core and is excited to sit with other HR pros and share stories. He loves to come up with new ideas from what he hears from both the other speakers and attendees.

Bob’s advice for first time annual conference attendees.

Take a peek at the conference content before you get there. Give yourself a good idea of what you want to see and make a plan for each day. Try to absorb as much as you can. Don’t overlook the 7 a.m. sessions - they are usually awesome. Get up and get there. And of course, wear sneakers! You will be doing a lot of walking.  

Bob also wanted to share that there are two videos on YouTube titled “Who’s sinking your boat?” And “Why is your boat still sinking?” which are great, easy videos to use in your organization if you need leaders to start thinking and talking about how powerful engagement really is. The simple talking points will generate discussion for sure!




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