For my last edition of Behind the Scenes at #SHRM18, I caught up with Andrew Morton, director of social engagement at SHRM.
Andrew, tell us who you are and what you do. I used to think that my title, director of social engagement, was a bit silly, but, honestly, “engagement” is what I do. Social media goes beyond technology and platforms. It’s about creating content and relationships, and, honestly, engagement is key to both of those things. So, in short, I foster relationships between SHRM and everyone else through all forms of social media.
You have been involved with SHRM for about four years, so you’re a “newbie” by SHRM standards. How did that all start, and what keeps you at SHRM? I came to SHRM not long after a 21-year career in the Army. I spent enough time at an ad agency in between to realize that being a part of something bigger than myself was a key part of feeling that “purpose-driven” existence at work, and, honestly, that’s why I stay at SHRM. In many ways, HR people remind me of those who I served alongside in uniform. They are in the business of taking care of people. Sure, the bottom line is a part of that, but I see so many similarities in terms of commitment and dedication to serving others. So, our members inspire me all the time. When I meet them at events, when I interact with the influencers and bloggers, [when I see] their passion to help change their employees’ lives for the better—that’s all the reason I need to remind me I’m where I belong.
Let’s talk about social media. What are SHRM’s goals relating to utilizing Twitter, the blog and other social media? What are the biggest challenges, and how do you measure success? Our goals are pretty simple: create communities (member and otherwise) that help HR grow personally and professionally, promote our brand, and keep ourselves in the conversation about the workplace. We measure success by engagement, reach, resonance. We also measure success anecdotally, every day. When we have a member say to another, “Thanks so much for sharing that solution, idea, etc. It helped me do my job,” that’s success! We have over 50,000 logins to SHRM Connect each month, and engagement is increasing every day. We have grown #Nextchat into one of the most vibrant HR chats out there. Why? Because people are connecting, learning and sharing. That’s a huge part of what we do! The biggest challenge: community management—providing that day-to-day interaction in support of our followers, fans and group members. The good news is so many of those same fans, followers and group members are an integral part of that community management. Peer-to-peer networking—that’s a huge part of the value of these communities. At times, it’s our job to serve as the host at a restaurant, if you will, making sure the table is set and the meal is served, and then to get out of the way of the dinner conversation. Social media is not complicated; it’s not easy, but it’s not complicated. Give people what they want, when they want it, in the places they want it.
This year we have the largest “Blog Squad” to date. What has been the reaction to having a squad the past few years, and what do you hope for them to accomplish before and during the #SHRM18 conference in Chicago? This goes into the category of me learning as I go. Our bloggers and influencers—#SHRM18 crew, if you will—they produce more content and engagement than any other source, before, during and after conference. Equally important, they inspire others! Here’s what I’ve learned, and I’ve been working with bloggers since 2006 during my time in Iraq: Bloggers aren’t good because they blog. They blog because they are good at what they do! Our bloggers are a huge inspiration to our members, online and in real life. Bringing a diverse group to the table, from all backgrounds and from around the world—that’s going to make #SHRM18 the best group yet!
Do you have a subject or topic that you think is a burning issue for HR practitioners this year at the conference? Culture. What are we (HR) doing to create a workplace that is rooted in respect, fosters engagement, and keeps people inspired and coming to work each day feeling like they are making a difference. Any topic that facilitates that sense of belonging at work is what I’m interested in. Artificial intelligence, technology, all these things certainly—all of what organizations do.
Who was your single favorite speaker over the years and why? (Besides me, of course!) That’s tough. You’re hard to beat! But I’d say Jonathan Segal for starters. He brings a legal perspective that’s also rooted in compassion. I’ve shared with him he’s the arbitrator of “compassionate compliance.” Sal Khan from the SHRM Annual Conference a few years back was very inspirational. He took a chance based on a belief that he could really create something that could change the world. It’s great to see an idea that’s noble come to fruition.
What keeps you up at night? Two things: running out of bacon in the Bloggers Lounge and my kids. When you have younger kids, you’re exhausted keeping up with them so you sleep well. When they turn to teens, you lose sleep going through all the challenges parenting presents. In all seriousness, ironically, I’d say our societal approach to social media in general. We have to strive for balance—not to live our lives on social, but to share the lives we live through social. Leave our smart devices behind when we go get coffee so that we are taking in all that’s around us. Take small steps to remind ourselves that real-life connections are the most valuable connections.
What advice would you offer a first-time attendee? Follow the #SHRM18Blogger team on Twitter and on the SHRM Blog (blog.shrm.org). Again, they are a fun, experienced and incredibly knowledgeable group, and we are very fortunate to have them assembled together, before, during and after the conference. But, overall, I’d say to clear your schedule of work-related stuff that will pull you into calls that take you away from connecting with others at the conference. After a session, look for someone you’ve never met and ask them what they thought. There’s so much great content, but don’t forget to connect with your peers!
This concludes my Behind the Scenes at #SHRM18 series this year. Please catch up with me on my Last HR Jedi Tour as I speak at the upcoming SHRM Talent Conference in Las Vegas or in June at #SHRM18 in Chicago. Make sure to say hi!