Social Gravity - A #SHRM18 Interview with Joe Gerstandt



I am always excited to attend a conference where I hear great speakers and SHRM18 is no exception.  One of them is a gentleman by the name of Joe Gerstandt, one of the leading voices I have heard on diversity and inclusion.  He is a do not miss one on my list for both his concurrent session and his appearance on the Smart Stage.  Please check out the descriptions of his talks and hit both of them.  Full disclosure, Joe and I are friends and have been for years and I have seen him speak many times, but that has nothing to do with my opinion of him as a speaker.  Surprising in that he graduated from the “other” university in Iowa.

What are the key points that you feel HR practitioners would learn by attending your session?

This session provides attendees with some tangible practices and tools for delivering a more inclusive experience to their employees, which I think any organization can benefit from; but more fundamentally and maybe more importantly, there is also some inquiry into what we really mean when we say “inclusion.” This is today, one of the most popular words relative to the workplace, but inside most organizations it remains a vague, abstract idea. Everyone loves to talk about how inclusive they are, but nobody can explain what that actually means in a clear, concise, logical, and actionable way - which makes it so much harder to deliver. Before you start hanging posters and launching programs, you have to put a foundation in place. I am not going to provide the ultimate definition, as I think inclusion has to mean different things for different organizations, but I am going to expose them to some definitions and models to inform their thinking. I think that finding some real clarity regarding what it means to be fully included in your organization is one of the most important things an HR leader can do today.

You and your partner in Talent Anarchy, Jason Lauritsen, have written one of my favorite books in our space, Social Gravity.  What key highlights would an HR practitioner gain from reading your book? Why do you think that?

I think the #1 highlight is that relationships matter, in fact they matter greatly. Not in a “winning the popularity contest” way, and not in a “mastering workplace politics” way, but in having a greater impact way. Relationships are portals through which things like influence, information, experience, and insight move back and forth…being intentional about building and maintaining relationships gives you more access to this social capital, which in turn gives you more tools to apply to your work. Relationships matter.

What made you decide to write this book?

Well, we had already been on the road talking about the topic for a while and the book just seemed like the next logical step.


What is a book you’d recommend, other than your own, that HR folks would benefit from? It doesn’t have to be a straight HR book.

JG  I am a certified book dork and am unable to answer any book-related question with just one book, so here are a few:

1) So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo

2) Orbiting the Giant Hairball, Gordon Mackenzie

3) Inclusion, Diversity, The New Workplace and the Will to Change, Jennifer Brown

4) The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer

5) Community, Peter Block

Are there any other speakers do you plan to see at SHRM18 and why?

I am excited to see Jamie Notter speak on Using Culture Data to Solve Business Problems. I have known Jamie for close to a decade now, have read all of his books and followed his work…have never had the chance to see him speak, so I am looking forward to seeing him in front of an audience.

What is your can’t-miss recommendation for Chicago, other than the conference of course?

Chicago is a fantastic art town. For sure get to Millennium Park and see The Bean, it is such an interactive piece, half the fun (or more) is watching everyone else interact with it, play with their reflections, and pose with it. If you have some time to invest, The Art Institute of Chicago is an absolute stunner, if you do not have a lot of time, The Museum of Contemporary Photography is well worth a visit.


Book Signing Information:

“Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships”
Tuesday, June 19, 12:10 – 12:25

Concurrent session:

“Designing the Inclusive Employee Experience”
Tuesday, June 19, 10:45 – 12:00

Smart Stage:

“Fight. More. Better.”
Monday, June 18, 3:20 – 3:38

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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