Q&A with #SHRM16 Speaker Jennifer McClure


Jennifer McClure is a sought-after Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach. She combines her experiences as a Business Leader, Human Resources Executive and Executive Recruiter with an engaging, entertaining and informative style to help Leaders unleash their potential and create massive positive impact. 
Jennifer has delivered over 200 keynotes, workshops and corporate training classes, where she shares a blend of inspiration, “how-to,” best practices and strategic discussion based upon her 25+ years of experience leading human resources and talent acquisition efforts and working with senior executives. Jennifer is CEO OF DisruptHR and is also a contributor to CareerBuilder's Talent Advisor Portal. She also posts regularly on her own blog, "Unbridled Talent

Jennifer will be speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition on June 20, 2016 at 4 p.m. on the topic “Take Control of Your Personal Brand to Help Your Career and Your Organization Grow”. She will also be leading a MEGA SESSION – The Future of HR: Four Strategies to Meet Business Challenges and Deliver Maximum Impact on Results on June 21, 2016 at 10:45 a.m.


1. What was your first Breakthrough HR moment in your career? 

I’d have to say that it was actually getting hired into an HR job in the first place! :) Back in the day, there were no degrees in “Personnel Management”, but I took as many personnel and industrial relations courses as I could in college (just a few available). I joined the student chapter of ASPA (what SHRM used to be called – The American Society of Personnel Administrators) for the opportunity to learn more, and connect with HR leaders who supported the chapter. However, once I graduated, it was difficult to convince anyone to hire me into an HR Personnel job because I didn’t have any prior experience.

So I had to do what any enterprising young professional should do I used my network to get a recommendation to interview for a Personnel Manager job from someone who knew me, and I found ways to frame my education and prior work experience in HR language. I dealt with customer issues as a cashier (employee relations), interviewed and recommended candidates (hiring/selection) during an internship for a convenience store chain, and audited personnel files and policy compliance as a bank auditor.

When I got the job offer, I was thrilled! I knew that once I “broke in” to HR, I was going to stay and make a difference.

2.  Is it possible for someone with a long career to still have breakthrough HR moments?  If so, how?

Absolutely! In fact, if you’re not having regular breakthrough moments in your career, and in your job, something is wrong. You’ve probably grown complacent and stagnant, or you’re in an organization that is not interested in growing. (It’s usually the former. Be careful about blaming someone else for your lack of personal growth.)

It’s critical for any business leader to remain curious about what is happening in the external environment (economy, industry, community, etc.), and consider how those changes affect their company and their own job. The world around us is constantly changing and evolving. We have to intentionally choose to keep up with/stay ahead of those changes. It doesn’t happen on it’s own.

I would challenge any HR professional to try at least one new thing personally (a networking event, reading a book contrary to their usual point of view, attending a conference or event outside of their “normal” responsibilities, etc.), and also at least one new thing at work each month. Breakthroughs often happen when we’re outside our comfort zone!

3.  You have a session on Monday, June 20 at 4:00 p.m. titled, " Take Control of Your Personal Brand to Help Your Career and Your Organization Grow."  What is the biggest mistake individuals make when it comes to personal branding?

For many business leaders, the biggest mistake I see individuals make when it comes to personal branding is thinking that they don’t need to build their own because doing so would take focus off of their business, and put it on them. I find this is really the case with HR professionals. They often feel that they should be working “behind the scenes” as a support department, and having a strong personal brand doesn’t support that. I completely disagree.

I believe that anyone who wants to get things done in their organization needs to have a strong personal brand. Who would you rather have working on your team as the HR leader – someone who is known as a leader in their profession, mentors other professionals, and has developed a reputation as a thought-leader or innovator; or someone who works mainly behind the scenes and implements other’s ideas. Both of these types of people exist in HR. Only one type is able to influence leadership to make positive changes and do what needs to be done to remain competitive for talent in a challenging global economy.

4.  You have an additional session (a MEGA SESSION!) on Tuesday, June 21 at 10:45 am titled " The Future of HR: Four Strategies to Meet Business Challenges and Deliver Maximum Impact on Results."  Which HR competency is the top priority that needs to evolve?

I believe the competency that elevates HR leaders into the category of a “business leader” in their organization is the Critical Evaluation. Multiple research studies and surveys indicate that human capital issues are some of the biggest challenges facing organizations in the future. As a result, HR professionals are uniquely positioned to deliver competitive advantage by ensuring that their companies have the talent needed to deliver upon their objectives.

The ability to think critically means that HR professionals must think about business needs and objectives first – and focusing on how HR can help with delivering upon them – rather than focusing on meeting HR’s needs first (compliance, administration, etc.) Strong and successful HR leaders will also be skilled at analyzing and interpreting data in order to make decisions and recommendations, versus reporting and tracking data against goals. For many, this requires a shift in thinking, but whether you’re an HR leader in a large, global organization, or a small organization, the ability to think strategically, and then guide your organization accordingly is what the c-suite needs from HR.

5.  You've attended the SHRM Annual Conference numerous times.  What keeps you coming back each year?

This will be my fifth year speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference, and I consider it a tremendous honor and opportunity to do so. I also very much enjoy attending the conference as a learner. I attend as many sessions as I can beyond my own, and always learn something new each year. I also enjoy meeting new people and making connections that can be meaningful beyond the conference experience, as well as connecting with old friends. For me, the SHRM Annual Conference is like a high school reunion each year – which you actually look forward to. :)

6.  What advice would you give to someone attending the SHRM Annual Conference for the first time?  What is the biggest rookie mistake you see?

I’d recommend having a loose plan in advance. Look through the session guide and determine which sessions/speakers interest you, and make a tentative schedule for yourself. But, don’t be married to your schedule! If someone at the conference recommends another session, or if you meet a speaker that interests you, be flexible and change it up.

A rookie mistake that I see people make (and many veterans too) is not considering connecting with people at the conference that they don’t know yet as a specific learning opportunity. Challenge yourself to introduce yourself to people while waiting for sessions to start, or standing in line. Don’t just ask their name and title. Ask them to share a challenge that they face in their organization, a success story in their career, or what their biggest takeaway has been so far at the conference. Look for commonalities and connection points. You’ll only find those if you go beyond name, rank and serial number. If you leave the conference only having connected with people you know, or hanging out with your co-workers, in my opinion, you’ve failed.

7.  You love horses (and you can't spell horse without HR!).  What could a HR professional learn about their job by interacting with horses?

Now you’re speaking my language! I think everyone can benefit from more horses in their life. :)

Seriously though, horses can teach us much about communication and leadership. They can’t understand our words, so what we communicate through our actions and emotions affects them. For example, I’ve had experiences with my horse where I was nervous or frightened, but I knew I needed her to go forward and keep moving. So, I kicked and squeezed, but she kept going backwards. My trainer observed this situation and later pointed out to me that although I was kicking and saying, “go forward”, I actually had a death grip on the reins, and was pulling backward. My actions didn’t match my intentions. I see this often in how we deal with employees, and my horse helps me to be aware of these types of situations, so I can ensure I’m consistent with my communications.

8.  You are CEO of Disrupt HR?  What would you disrupt about the SHRM Annual Conference?

I think SHRM does a great job of making changes each year to keep the conference fresh and add value for attendees. The SMART Stage talks are similar to DisruptHR talks, and I like the fact that they provide an opportunity for many more people to share a message in a short-form format.

So, since they’ve got the conference covered, I’ll choose to disrupt the Tuesday night entertainment. Bring on Beyoncé! 

Too expensive? Okay, I’ll settle for Maroon 5.



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