My 4 Best Takeaways From the Annual SHRM Conference

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Jul 6, 2018

Since the close of the SHRM 2018 Annual Conference and Exposition last month, I’ve been reflecting on the experience. I was proud to represent my team, as well as the HR industry, at SHRM18. Full disclosure: my SPHR and my SHRM-CP are both certified through 2022. So, while I was excited about many of the sessions and speakers, this year my main focus was to represent my company brand, bond with my team, and of course, to meet and bond with other HR professionals.

One of the best parts about attending SHRM is being literally surrounded by fellow HR professionals who get me.  “We get each other.”  They are my tribe, my people, and I love to hear their stories and insights into our multifaceted profession.

So, why do all of these HR people converge onto SHRM conferences every year? Based on my personal experiences and conversations with my peers, there are four major takeaways from SHRM for HR professionals and others in the space:

1. Learning and development

HR is faced with tough decisions, changing legislation, and conflicting deadlines, every day. They are the face of both well-received policies and difficult messages. Our job is tough, you guys! So, when we have the opportunity to hear from thought leaders and other practitioners about their ideas, advice, and best practice suggestions, it’s refreshing. It can often be validating to hear that you are doing things right, but SHRM is also a great place to get insight and ideas to bring home to our organizations.

The speakers at SHRM have years of insights, knowledge and guidance to share with SHRM attendees. They are well-respected industry leaders that many of us aspire to emulate. They’re also great presenters, and deliver their messages in a way that the audience can engage in, and impart practical guidance from. This year, the lineup included speakers like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, bestselling author and Wharton professor Adam Grant, and Florida Governor Jeb Bush, with topics ranging from reinventing HR, to building leadership, to coaching your talent for change.  Hearing from these industry leaders is a huge draw and incredibly rewarding.

2. Recertification credits

For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of sitting for an HRCI or SHRM exam, let me tell you: they are intensely, gruelingly hard. I have sat for the PHR and SPHR, and these exams were far harder than any test I had to take for my undergraduate degree. Seriously. They are the culminations of literally months of studying and hard work.

HR professionals can either renew their certification every 3-year cycle, through continuing education (like conferences!) or, they are faced with the dire possibility of having to sit for those tests again at the end of their cycles. Believe me when I tell you, recertification through ongoing training is the choice we will almost exclusively go for. A final thought here: If you see someone sporting an HRCI or SHRM certification on their badges, they are legitimate bragging rights and that practitioner has earned their street cred and is proud of it. So, go ahead and congratulate them for it!

3. Comradery

I want to tell you a secret: We are professionally trained in conflict management, maintaining our composure, professionalism, and tact. Those are must-have soft skills for an HR practitioner. But we are also humans, with feelings under that outward mask of carefully-maintained composure. We can’t vent to our non-HR coworkers if an employee is behaving badly, or show our true feelings when employees are unprofessional with us. We must always maintain our composure, because we are the face of our organization and setting an example for how others behave and perceive our culture.

When we attend SHRM, we are surrounded by other HR practitioners, who “get it.” They understand us and the decisions we are faced with daily. We share stories! We laugh about the most outrageous employee behavior. We can be more of our true selves, and that is incredibly refreshing.

4. Find vendors

Vendors do a fabulous job concepting their booths, and it’s really fun to see how it all comes together. As HR pros, we appreciate this! But we genuinely are scoping out new vendor partnerships, too. In fact, I found a handful of vendors I plan to follow up with, because I think their products will serve our employees really well. This is an incredible opportunity to get face-to-face with future partners.

On that note, as I mentioned above, I loved being a part of our booth this year, as a vendor! Several HR practitioners were able to chat with me about our product from an HR perspective. If you are a provider of any HR products, I encourage you to ask your HR executive or manager to attend SHRM19 with you. Just imagine the conversations that will open up at your company when HR leaders and business leaders are experiencing the conference together.

For my fellow HR practitioners: see you in Vegas at SHRM19!