#SHRM21 Takeaways from Amanda Brunson

I returned back to Orlando from Las Vegas almost three weeks ago, after attending the 2021 SHRM Annual Conference and Expo. Even though it was almost a month ago, it feels like just yesterday. It’s funny, normally I am more than ready to come back from Las Vegas after I’ve been there for a few days; it’s just not my favorite place to be. However, this time around, I had an amazing time. Maybe it was because I got to see friends that I hadn’t seen in two years (or that I had never met IRL before) or maybe it was because I got to do some fun things this time; whatever the reason, I was so glad I was there!

I felt really lucky this year, I got to attend two conferences back-to-back. The HR Florida State Conference was from August 30 – September 1. I then turned around and flew out to Las Vegas for #SHRM21 on September 7. I was away from work for 11 working days and boy did it feel good!!! I know they were hurting without me being there, but I know they managed. I felt the only right thing I could do to make up for it was to share what I learned with my broader team. I shared my top 15 highlights from the conference, and I thought why stop there? I want to share my top 15 highlights with all of you too!

To start us off, I want to share two words. Steve Browne. When I say those two words, I am reminded of the Frozen Sing-along at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The royal historians of Arendelle promise Princess Anna that they will teach the citizens of Hollywoodland all of the words to Arendelle’s precious anthems while she goes to look for her sister, but then “Sir” Eric says, I think they already know the words; makes me laugh every time. So how does Steve Browne remind me of the Frozen Sing-along? Well – I feel like when I say the words “Steve Browne” to this audience, you all already know something amazing is about to follow!

I was lucky enough to sit in the front row for both of Steve Browne’s sessions at #SHRM21. On Thursday, Steve gave his presentation on “HR on Purpose!! Five Ways to Own, Lead and Integrate HR Throughout Your Organization.” On Friday, he gave his presentation on “It’s Okay to be Human!! Proven Ways to Effectively Lead Your HR Role.” Between both sessions, I had a total of five key takeaways; even though I think Steve said I was supposed to have more… They are:

  1. The people sitting around you are the best resources you will ever find
  2. It’s not against the law to mess with people
  3. We need to light our people up instead of writing them up (my favorite and I’ve actually already implemented this once since I’ve been back…)
  4. Set parameters and be consistent instead of following strict rules. Nothing is black and white
  5. We don’t just represent high potentials, leaders, or front-line team members – we represent everybody 

Now, Steve Browne isn’t the only Steve that I enjoy seeing at SHRM conferences. I also had a chance to see Steve Gilliland this year; I attended his session on “The Cherry on Top: How to Add Value to Your People, Products and Services.” My key takeaways from his session were:

  1. Change “it is what it is” to “it is what we make it”
  2. Now more than ever, you’ve got to stop giving people permission to ruin your day
  3. You need to add value to not only your organization but also the people around you
  4. It’s not the strings that break that will ever stop you. It will be your inability to focus on what you have left to play

I was also excited about our keynotes this year. Unfortunately, I was only in attendance on Friday and Saturday, but I sure did enjoy both of them. Friday, we had the pleasure of listening to Michael Phelps. Michael was incredible and his journey is remarkable. To hear about how he’s overcome his mental health issues was extraordinary. My takeaways from his session were:

  1. Asking for help might be the hardest thing you can do, but it is the best thing you can do 
  2. The pandemic has taught me to slow things down and truly focus on what’s important to me
  3. Self-care is so important. We have to fill our cups before we can fill others
  4. Visualize all of the possible outcomes so you are prepared for anything

Then on Saturday, we heard from Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM President & CEO. He even had a surprise for us when he brought out Ms. Opal Lee, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.” My final two takeaways from Friday’s keynote are:

  1. If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love
  2. Let’s all make sure we are being intentional with our demonstration of empathy vs. empathy. Empathy = I want you to have empathy for me and my differences, but I’m not willing to do the same.

Now as I mentioned, I shared these 15 key takeaways with my team at work. I had an incredible question from one of my peers. They asked me, what is one thing that you will change about the way you do things based on your experience at #SHRM21? I will wrap this blog up with my answer. “I will never say “It is what it is” anymore. I will question the status quo and if I don’t like the way it is, then I will make it into something different.” Thank you, Steve Gilliland, for that eye-opening statement.


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