Top 4 Themes from #SHRM17

Top 4 Themes from #SHRM17

Last week, I attended #SHRM17, the annual conference for the Society of Human Resource Management, in New Orleans. It was my first time attending a conference centered around HR, but hopefully not my last. The value of this conference is particularly pronounced for a services and solutions firm like ours, as our biggest asset is our people and the conference provided an opportunity to further invest in enhancing our culture. I learned that we are doing a lot of things right at Galen, as supported by our 5 years running of being one of Modern Healthcare’s top 100 Best Places to Work.

That said, while we adhere to our founding tenets – the 5 main things (5MT) –  we are always looking to continually improve. As such, I hope to incorporate ideas and insights gained from the conference in discussions in the very near future. There were some very specific themes that resonated with me across the different sessions and wanted to share as these themes are critical to the success of any organization.

Trust – Trust your people. Ensure they trust you.

  • If you believe people are fundamentally good, you will treat them that way.
  • Give people more freedom than you are comfortable with.
  • The biggest expense in any organization is a lack of trust; the cost of skepticism is enormous.
  • Employees who trust their colleagues and their leadership teams are more productive, less stressed, less costly, and generate more revenue.
  • The eight aspects of trust that should be treated equally within your organization are: clarity, compassion, character, competency, commitment, connection, contribution, and consistency.

Teamwork – taking smart people and teaching them to work together will be a huge competitive advantage for any organization.


  • They must be Humble – which is most important of all. There is no time for arrogance or someone who is egotistical.
  • They must be Hungry – They always want to learn more and they like to get things done.
  • They must be Smart – not intellectually, but emotionally smart. They must have common sense around people and know how they impact their colleagues with the things they do.

Engagement – when your team is engaged they will give their all, no matter their role.

A Gallop Poll revealed that 67% of employees do not feel engaged at their company, 50% do not feel their job is part of their identity and 65% would choose firing their boss over getting a raise!

  • It’s not about money, or promotions, or cool technology your company may have. Those are typically short term answers to much bigger questions.
  • Engagement is very individual. For your teams to be engaged you must:
    • Listen – ask questions, check-in, ask more questions, check-in…
    • Set goals that can be separated from annual performance review goals – people love quick wins. Set goals that are like sprints – proximity to the finish line will make runners run faster.
    • Positivity – praise and positive reinforcement is key.
    • Relationships – create personal connections. When you have a personal connection with your team you never want to let them down.
    • Impact – make sure each and every contributor knows that the work they do matters.
    • Empowerment – Being powerless is a big problem. When someone owns something, they will take better care of it.

Culture – your company culture is important, it is critical, and it is a competitive advantage if you do it right.

  • You must understand what aspects of your culture are enabling your business strategy, which are inhibiting it.
  • Leaders in organizations must make a conscious effort to embrace change when it is needed to keep the company culture intact.
  • If we say people matter, do our behaviors support that?
  • And ultimately your company culture is what the employees say it is, not what leadership thinks it is. So listen.

I gained so much at this conference, I couldn’t possibly capture it in a single blog post, but wanted to highlight some of the larger themes that carried throughout the conference and left a lasting impression with me. In particular, the following presenters at SHRM17 shared so many cogent insights and sage advice that resonated: Laszlo Bock, Jeanetta Darno, Patrick Lencioni, David Horsager, and Karlyn Borysenko. I’ll definitely be following them to see what new insights they have going forward.

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