Minnesota SHRM – Part 1

Last Sunday I headed out to attend my very first HR conference: the Minnesota State SHRM Conference. I’ve been to training and networking events locally, but I’ve never had the chance to attend a conference in person. Besides the awesome speakers (Talent Anarchy, Cy Wakeman, etc; ) I was also excited for the opportunity to meet a lot of the people that I’ve gotten to know via Twitter or my blog.

Between keynote speakers, sessions and networking, Minnesota SHRM was a whirlwind. With so much on my plate, I needed a couple days to really think about what I had seen and learned. Before I realized it, I had one very long blog post. So instead of risking you falling asleep 1,000 words in I decided to break it up into two key themes that emerged from this conference: accountability and networking.


I attended a lot of great sessions but one theme I kept returning to was accountability. Accountability by HR, our employees, our leaders, ourselves; this was especially prevalent during Tuesday’s keynote by Cy Wakeman. Among the many quotes that had me thinking:

  • Stop leading with sympathy. Lead with empathy: “I understand your situation but I want you to move and grow.”
  • Every business wants aggressive agendas with limited resources. This is called capitalism. Every year when this happens we act shocked. Why?
  • On employee engagement surveys: Start focusing on accountability. All employees are not equally credible. Treating their opinions as equal is insane.

These may be controversial statements but for me they spoke the truth about something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time…the idea that HR is the nice department. People come to us and treat us almost as therapists. They want to talk but “please don’t say anything.” Building accountability starts with the individual. It starts with me. I’m not a senior leader in my organization but I can still work to build accountability and thus a better organization through my day-to-day interactions.

In Jason Lauritsen’s session, Power & Politics, he discussed the need to re-frame our views on power and politics in order to see the good that can come from politics. Many times we think that people who pursue power or who are “political” are bad, but politics and power also wield enormous good. It isn’t enough for HR to know what needs to be done. We need to evaluate our organizations, find out where the power comes from and then figure out how to connect with that person in order to get to “yes.” This may mean selling our ideas….sales and HR, a loathsome combo to some but one we must embrace to get to Yes.

Finally, Jay Kuhns had an amazing discussion on transforming HR for the future. “The future” is getting far away from the personnel model and moving to one that is focused only on helping the business to achieve its goals. To paraphrase: “Good HR is understanding what is going on, on the front lines of the business. When a kid is waiting for a heart transplant…who cares about a form?”

I loved Jay’s talk for a number of reasons but most importantly because I had the privilege to hear a senior leader discuss in-depth, how he changed his team…the good, the bad and the ugly. Why don’t more senior HR leaders do this? He did not name names or reveal top-secret info, instead it was an extremely helpful and realistic look into HR transformation. It all starts with leadership and it takes time.

Stay tuned for my post on Thursday…On top of all this great information on building and driving accountability there was a strong dose of networking: social, IRL, and how-to.

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