Last week, SHRM hosted its sold-out 2019 Inclusion Conference—formerly Diversity & Inclusion. We welcomed over 1,000 workforce professionals to New Orleans to explore the theme of “Shifting Workplace Culture.”
Changing the name from D&I to Inclusion was key. Notions about diversity in the workplace are transforming. It’s no longer enough to have a multicultural, multigenerational workforce. Every individual must also be consciously included as contributors and potential leaders. As SHRM’s President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. has said, “Diversity speaks to who is on the team, but inclusion focuses on who is really in the game.”
Now, this metaphor really resonates with me because I am a huge sports fan. So it was a thrill for me to interview our featured keynoter at Inclusion, New Orleans Saints quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees.
As one of only a handful of quarterbacks who have ever played into their 40s, Brees has become an expert on leading players from Gen X to Gen Z to success while also navigating the Saints’ multigenerational coaching staff and front office. His experiences mirror those of leaders in today’s workplaces, where up to five generations work side by side, often with mixed results. The challenges show up in differing approaches to teamwork, communication, work styles, motivations and the personal issues employees bring to work with them.
Workplaces that succeed in including, valuing and capitalizing on these differences are the ones thriving today, and the NFL is no different. “The minute you walk into the locker room together, you are one,” Brees shared. “You are striving for the same goal. You have the same purpose at the end of the day."
Brees gave us a deep dive into a workplace where turnover is high, performance is critical and individuals from many different backgrounds work in concert in the truest sense of a team. He attributes much of his success to a management style of personal example: "I can't ask somebody to do something that I'm not willing to do myself," he said. He told the audience he is usually the first one at work and the last to leave, often tidying up the locker room before he goes, out of respect for the workplace and his hardworking teammates.
The tone of this year’s Inclusion conference really seemed to resonate with attendees. It was all about coming together and networking—and learning. This group of professionals wants to know as much as they can to do their jobs well. Meeting rooms for the concurrent sessions were full as attendees soaked up the content and the General Sessions were packed. In the middle of Johnny’s opening keynote, I had an “Amen chorus” of appreciative listeners all around me, nodding and agreeing as he challenged us to look in the mirror and recognize our hidden biases.
I truly enjoyed this conference and seeing people have a good time and demonstrate their passion for building better workplaces. Thanks to everyone who attended and to the SHRM team for putting on such a great show. I hope you will join us in Philadelphia on October 19-21, 2020. Be sure to register early!