Q&A with #SHRM16 Speaker Steve Browne (@sbrownehr)

Steve Browne is the Executive Director of Human Resources for LaRosa's, Inc. — a regional Pizzeria restaurant chain in Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southwest Indiana with 18 locations and over 1,200 Team Members. Steve has been a human resources professional for 25+ years and has worked in the Manufacturing, Consumer Products, and Professional Services industries. Additionally, Steve is a former State Director for Ohio SHRM and serves as a member of the SHRM Board of Directors. Steve facilitates a monthly HR Roundtable in Cincinnati and runs an internet message board for HR professionals that reaches 6,000 + people globally on a weekly basis.  Steve is also a contributor to CareerBuilder'sTalent Advisor Portal and posts regularly on his own blog, "Everyday People."  Steve is also a HUGE U2 fan.

On Tuesday, June 21, Steve will be presenting a MEGA SESSION at the SHRM Annual Conference in Washington D.C. titled, "HR on Purpose! Five Ways to Own, Lead and Integrate HR Throughout Your Organization."

What was your first Breakthrough HR moment in your career? 

My first breakthrough moment in HR was in my second HR job. It was an HR generalist role, and the owner of the company I joined sat me down on my first day and told me I needed to memorize the names and jobs of everyone in the organization in 30 days. He said that he and I would sit down on the 30th day exactly, and he would quiz me. If I missed one person, I would be fired.

On the 30th day, we sat down and he began to quiz me. We had over 200 employees at three plants (one out of state) and a corporate office. He quizzed me for almost an hour!! I didn’t miss one. At the end, he asked me what I thought of his exercise. I told him it was helpful because I learned who our people were and what they did. Here’s the breakthrough moment...

He said, “I did this so you’d know that the only reason you’re here is my people. If you ever forget that, I don’t need you.”

This has been my approach to HR ever since!!

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

Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? Unfortunately in most cases, no. People in all professions tend to “settle in” after a long career. It’s easier, it’s had some marked success in the past and people accept it. I think this is a stumbling block for our profession. HR begs people to remain dynamic, engaged and curious. Businesses, and people, change every day. We have to remain alert and in touch with our people. The more we’re in touch with them, the larger the possibility that breakthrough moments will reveal themselves. The “how” for me is to remain vigilant and expect that breakthroughs can happen, and I can be a part of them on an on-going basis regardless of how long I’ve been in HR.

You were recently elected to the SHRM Board of Directors.  What has been the most surprising thing you've discovered in taking on that role?

The most surprising facet I’ve found so far is the depth of SHRM as an organization. My experience to this point had some knowledge of the “whole” of SHRM, but now I get to see all sides of it, not just from the Membership viewpoint. I’m fascinated by everything that SHRM has to offer and need to continue to learn how people access things, and find a way to make people more connected.

What are 2-3 things you would like to see accomplished during your time on the SHRM Board of Directors?

First of all, I want people to know how humbled (and Geeked) I am to be able to serve on the SHRM Board. I don’t take this lightly at all. What would I like to see accomplished? Here are a few things…

  1. I’d like to see people who are SHRM members understand the value of their membership so that they are making a conscious personal and professional decision to belong. It needs to “matter” past the paying of membership dues.
  2. I’d like to see the Body of Competency and Knowledge (BoCK) be utilized as a professional development tool for HR professionals as well as be a vehicle for people to obtain their SHRM Certification. It really is an amazing set of competencies that can be applied throughout a person’s career.
  3. I’d like to see SHRM embrace HR pros at all points of their career and throughout their career – from student to retiree, from generalist to specialist, from consultant to vendor. At the same time, move the profession forward while maintaining the solid professional development they offer at various stages of one’s career.

You have a MEGA SESSION on Tuesday, June 21 at 2:15 p.m. titled, "HR on Purpose! Five Ways to Own, Lead and Integrate HR Throughout Your Organization." (which conflicts with my own SMART Stage session...go see Steve) Are many HR professionals not purposeful?  If so, why not?

I think many HR people are “functional”, but I’m not convinced they’re purposeful. I’ve found that doing HR (and life) with passion and purpose is challenging because it calls for an intentionality that is above being able to “do your job.” HR is vital to organizations because they have people. It boils down to people, and it always has. We keep trying to lead with processes, and that is limiting. I think there’s a stripped down way to make tangible, long-lasting impact in companies through HR. The session will hit on these things.

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

First and foremost, the reason I attend Annual is the people. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s real for me!! I love seeing friends and “regulars” who make the Annual trek across the country. I yearn to see the SHRM volunteers and chapter leaders because that has been how I grew up in SHRM. I know the time and effort that people willingly give and I want to make sure that they know that they’re making a difference for the profession. Thirdly, I dig meeting new people from all over the world who also practice HR!! It gets me out of a narrow frame of reference and reminds me that HR happens globally. I connect with new folks because I want them to know someone else “gets them” and what they do on a daily basis.

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

My advice would be three-fold.

  1. Go to sessions that stretch you professionally so you can grow personally and also help your organization to grow. The technical sessions are good if you don’t feel strong in a certain area, but take a chance and really stretch!!
  2. Be Social!! – Make sure to connect with at least 5 to 10 people you didn’t know before attending SHRM16. Be intentional about it, and get to know them and make the connections with them socially as well (Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc.). Go out to the social events and hang with people throughout the week. Don’t do the mad dash back to your room to catch some TV show. Be in the sea of people!!
  3. Check out the presentations on the Smart Stage. Great content in small bites!! A hidden gem of the Conference.

Rookie mistake?? – Being overwhelmed by the sheer number of attendees, sights, sounds, vendors, swag, etc. Know your capacity and stick with it. Don’t try to do everything. Take the conference in portions, but dive deep into the ones you choose.

How many people do you hope to meet at the SHRM Annual Conference?

All of them!! Not a joke or an exaggeration. I would relish the chance to meet every person who wants to connect. I don’t want to be overwhelming or intrusive, but I do want to break people out of their Conference mindset that you’re there to just attend sessions. I’ll be at sessions, in the Blogger’s Lounge, in the Volunteer Leader Lounge and at the keynote sessions. I truly enjoy connecting people to others. It completely energizes me!! The more I can help attendees “humanize” the Conference, the better Conference I think they’ll have.


Originally posted on the True Faith HR Blog.




For more information and to attend SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition, visit www.annual.shrm.org.



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