Reflections on #SHRM22

As I was heading home after #SHRM22, I couldn’t help thinking about what I enjoyed the most. First, as a history lover, specifically U.S. history, it was an immeasurable honor to attend the closing general session to hear from President George W. Bush. Further, given the current divisive political climate, I was immensely proud of the respect shown to the former President by the thousands of my HR colleagues also in attendance.

The exchange between SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr and George Bush was both entertaining and insightful. The former President shared memories of his parents, President George H.W., and Barbara Bush, as well as several world leaders. However, the most important point I took away is, based on his extensive knowledge of U.S. and foreign leaders and issues, President Bush remains exceedingly optimistic for the future. I’ll also never forget the President’s light-hearted comments to the SHRM CEO, twice saying, “chew on that Johnny.”

As usual, at the top of my list of outstanding #SHRM22 programs was, “The Supreme Court Speaks…Are You Listening?” presented by Joe Beachboard. Both entertaining and informative, and packed with SCOTUS-related prizes, this perennial program covered recent and upcoming SCOTUS rulings on workplace issues including arbitration, vaccine mandates, employment discrimination, and affirmative action. Joe also co-presented “Employee Activism and the Workplace: Why Employers Must Take Notice Now,” with his colleague Dr. Dennis Davis. This timely presentation focused on the increase in the number of employees at every level speaking out at work, with many expecting their employers to publicly address political and social issues. Together, Joe and Dennis discussed how employers can address these hot-button issues while minimizing workplace disruptions and potential legal liability.

Louis Lessig was another great presenter who helps #HR professionals #CauseTheEffect. Louis presented, “Adventures in ADA: The Good, The Bad & The Oh My!” Masterfully weaving together humor and actual cases, Louis took attendees on an interactive journey exploring examples of the right, wrong, and especially puzzling ways employers have handled ADA accommodation requests. Once again proving what HR professional have long known; you just can’t make this stuff up! His second program, “Positive Conversations: Utilizing Employment Laws as a Retention Tactic,” was well worth the long convention center walk at 8:30am. Louis reminded us that barking at managers and employees about employment laws is not a retention strategy, and using fear as a leadership tool does not foster engagement. Instead, by using a different mindset – viewing the ADA, FMLA, and Title VII as instruments to create conversations with employees – HR can improve the workplace. When we find new ways to speak with employees, identify solutions, and at the same time comply with the relevant employment laws, everyone wins.

While hearing from a former U.S. President, and attending exceptional programs, was amazing, the best part of #SHRM22 was finally being with friends and fellow #SHRM22Influencers from around the world. To all of them I say, it was great seeing you and I can’t wait to get together again at #SHRM23 in #LasVegas!

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