The 2018 edition of the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo is now just about one month away. Each year SHRM chooses a theme for the event, something that’s meant to inspire attendees and encourage us to think about our careers and the HR professions in a new or different way, something that becomes almost a guiding force behind everything that happens there. As I approach the event each year, I like to take some time to think about the theme, what it means specifically to me, and how I can help to manifest it through how I participate in the conference not only over the course of the four days, but leading up to and after the event officially ends as well.
This year’s chosen theme is “Expand Your World.” At first blush one could argue that it’s a rather generic theme, or something that really doesn’t resonate much. Most of us practitioners are regularly knee deep in the minutiae of our day to day responsibilities; why do we need to look beyond that, and more importantly, who has the time?
Yes, it’s true that everyone is busier than ever, and the idea of thinking beyond our daily responsibilities may seem overwhelming. But the beauty of SHRM Annual is that it gives us the perfect opportunity to do just that; it gives us the chance to step away from our day to day and focus on concepts and ideas bigger than what we might typically deal with. And we may just find that when we allow ourselves to do that, amazing things might happen.
So how can we expand our worlds at SHRM18? Here are a few thoughts:
Keynote speakers are usually brought in not to talk about specific HR related topics, but rather to inspire at a higher level. It may be in the context of general business, it may be related to being better leaders, or it may be about topics on a more macro scale such as politics or economic factors. This year on tap are Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, United Airlines’ Oscar Munoz, SHRM’s own Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. and best-selling author and Wharton School of Business professor Adam Grant. Listen to the messages of each of these speakers, not only in the context of how what they have to say impacts you in your day-to-day, but also how what they talk about impacts the direction of the HR profession and business in general as we move into the future.
Concurrent Sessions and Smart Stage
SHRM Annual offers literally hundreds of concurrent sessions in a variety of different tracks. It may be tempting to choose sessions on topics familiar to you and stick with your comfort zone, but this is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself and expose yourself to knowledge outside of the parameters of your current job. Why not choose a few sessions on topics you know nothing about, or focus areas that intimidate you a little? Why not focus on the job you might want to have one day rather than the one you have today? And if you’re still wary of investing 75 minutes or more on something you can’t immediately relate to, there’s also the option of the Smart Stage. The Smart Stage is SHRM’s version of TED talks and offers bite-sized presentation in 15-18 minute blocks on a variety of different topics; it’s a great way to focus on something different without investing a ton of time.
Attending SHRM Annual gives you a pretty unique experience – the opportunity to be right in the midst of and surrounded by over 10,000 other HR professionals all looking to learn. And although the formal learning opportunities are aplenty, some of the most valuable takeaways from your conference experience could come from the connections you make with other attendees. I can personally attest to this; I’ve worked for the same company for quite a long time, so the connections I’ve made over the years outside of that environment have proved invaluable in keeping me connected to new ideas and fresh approaches. It might happen in the hallways between sessions, in the expo hall, or at one of the social events that will take place over the course of the four days; where ever your conference experience takes you, keep your head up and eyes open and be open to new connections; you never know who might have impact on you, or who you could help along the way.
The HR profession is continuing to change and evolve. From changing expectations about what work is and how and where is should and could be performed; to technologies and evolving business models that disrupt not only our internal practices, but also our companies and the way we compete in this new world; to the changing knowledge and skills needed to support these new ways of doing business; HR needs to be right there at the heart of it all…supporting and advocating for our employees and the changing nature of work, encouraging the transformations that are needed to remain competitive, and ensuring that we have the best talent in place ready to take on tomorrow’s challenges. That, to me, is no better reason to continue to expand our worlds.
See you in Chicago in June!