#SHRM21: Tie-Dyed HR is More Than Just a Pop of Color

Walk into any Mega Session at the National SHRM Conference and you can expect to see some pockets of empty seats. After all, it’s hard to know how many will show up as there’s no real pre-registration for preparation. But when Steve Browne is the Mega Session speaker, be prepared for a full house. And this year was no exception. 

Steve spoke twice on two different topics of human resources professional purpose and alignment. You see, for Steve, his 37-year career in HR is not about arrival, but rather, actively pursuing a destination. What’s the difference? As HR practitioners, we can feel a sense of arrival with each promotion or raise. We take these circumstances as destination points. Steve challenges that perspective by inserting responsibility and humanity into the picture. 

Each mile-marker of perceived arrival is actually a push towards deeper responsibility and sacrifice. At each level of title/promotion is the opportunity to connect with people deeper and with a distinct purpose – to move them forward in their own abilities to succeed. There is no rest with each higher title, but rather a renewed passion to celebrate and uplift others. And while the response for some might be, “Oh well, that’s Steve. He’s just a tie-dyed ball of energy,” there was no room in those sessions for shirking individual responsibility.

Steve shared the philosophy behind why he does what he does. He was careful to not say “do what I do,” but rather to find a way to do what needs to be done in your own enthused spirit and actions. In both Mega Sessions, Steve shared what commitment to the human resources profession needs to look like. He wanted to introduce (or remind) those attending to the ideas of compassion, connection and creativity necessary to do work that lasts in our field. 

Probably nothing speaks more to this than my privilege of sitting next to Steve’s son, Josh, during one of the two sessions. Josh is a joy and is currently pursuing advanced education in California. He drove to Vegas to watch his dad do his thing. And with pride in his eyes, Josh affirmed what I already knew for years – “This is how my Dad is.” There was no show, no airs, no pretense. Steve is authentic which is ultimately what he was challenging all of those in attendance to be. 

The best way we can connect with others is to be genuine in our engagement. It’s not a have-to but more a pleasure-to. Steve leads the People function as LaRosa’s Pizza. And while turnover is a constant problem in the restaurant industry, Steve shared celebration stories of people who were led to a purpose and therefore stayed for 5, 10, 20, or 35 years. This kind of success is what Steve points to. Of course, financial stability matters. Of course, solid compliance to the law matters. Of course, strategic growth planning matters. Steve did not minimize any of those areas. It is in the additional component of individual opportunities for success that Steve challenged his audiences. 

And one other note: Steve made it apparent that there are others doing this work, too. He is not alone, but he is asking for more to join him and those others. We left having to answer his call in our workplaces. Am I a champion for all in my organization? It’s a worthy question.

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