It always seems like there’s a world-class soccer tournament simultaneously playing as the the Society for Human Resource Management opens its annual soiree.
Sure enough, the Women’s World Cup is on in France, and SHRM is opening in Las Vegas. And sure enough, Brazil and France were deadlocked 1-1 in overtime as Sunday’s opening session kicked off.
Timing wise that was fine because we should know who wins by the time Johnny C. Taylor Jr. gives the assembled HR faithful the annual CEO’s state of SHRM. Last year in Chicago, Taylor’s inaugural speech at the Sunday general session was a riveting blend of revival meeting and motivational speech about HR’s growing role in the workplace.
So, let’s check the boxes as we watch the first 20 minutes or so until Taylor speaks.
Huge conference space at the Las Vegas Convention Center? Check.
Record attendance? Oh yes … somewhere north of 20,000 people are here.
Glitz and glamour? Check and check. I mean, the opening act was iLuminate, a deft troupe that blends tech and theater. And the upcoming opening keynote was TV and media personality Martha Stewart.
Score still tied 1-1.
Event emcee Melissa Dawn Simkins offered up a plug for the SHRM Foundation and we heard about new initiatives — the SHRM Studio and Convos & Coffee, a clever little lounge with a weirdly intuitive floor that asks questions about such things as ageism and diversity of your workplace.
France goes ahead 2-1. Still 7 minutes left. Yikes.
Simkins introduced SHRM Board of Directors Chairman David Windley.
Pleasant enough speech. Windley noted the 20,000 people in attendance this year, 1,400 of whom belong to the public sector and a large number who practice HR internationally.
Windley also noted how people spend a third of lives at work and that there’s a growing level of trust between employees and their employers.
“People are losing trust in institutions but not in their workplaces,” Windley said. “The employer is most trusted — 75 percent more than NGOs, media and government. Employers are the key relationship in peoples’ lives. So we have a serious responsibility,” Windley added.
France still ahead, 2-1; 2 minutes left. Annnnd, I lose the feed. Noooooo ….. .
Oh well, Taylor will be on shortly.
Windley continues about SHRM’s second chance push for formerly incarcerated people and how advisors are on hand at the conference for HR practitioners who want to learn more about what has been Taylor’s signature initiative. And there was polite applause as Windley mentioned companies signing a pledge to give people a second chance in the workplace.
Match over; France advances. Full attention now as Windley concludes his talk.
“Learn, share, go back and build better workplaces for a better world,” Windley said as the assembled crowd applauds.
Behind him people scramble to set up two chairs and a table for the upcoming chat between Taylor and Martha Stewart.
But … out comes Stewart. And Taylor. Big applause.
And my jaw drops. What?!? No Johnny C. Taylor state of SHRM talk? I get a text from a colleague. “No JCT???”
No whipping the crowd into a frenzy over the second chance initiative? No firing up the HR base over building better workplaces?
I mean, the CEO’s talk — whether it was Taylor’s predecessor Hank Jackson or even dating back to Sue Meisinger — occurred Sunday, since it’s the big chance for all SHRM members to hear from their CEO before they begin hitting sessions and the expo hall (not to mention Las Vegas). Instead they get the chairman of the board — and I don’t mean Frank Sinatra.
So, maybe you were happy with Taylor and Stewart kibbutzing for 90 minutes. I thought Stewart was disappointing and all about herself with just a passing mention of her own incarceration. What a great opportunity to forward Taylor’s prime initiative.
Call me a creature of habit. Perhaps if I had read the schedule a bit more closely I would noticed that Taylor is set to give his take on all things HR on Monday morning before keynoter Brene Brown takes the stage.
As one SHRM media person told me, “Johnny likes to mix things up.”
Indeed he does.
So, France moves on to play again. And, it appears, so do the rest of us to hear about SHRM’s current and future state.
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