Is Your HR as Proactive as it Could be? Our Top Takeaways from SHRM 2019

Rebecca Glatt By: Rebecca Glatt

SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) has a reputation for being an authority in the HR community. This April 8–10, SHRM hosted a conference dedicated to talent called “Talent is Everything”. The conference took place in Nashville, TN and welcomed over 1,400 participants to 80+ sessions.

Throughout the three-day event, we picked up on a bevy of HR ideas and best practices that shared a common theme: HR should be more proactive. With the right mindset, programs and processes in place, HR can be a powerful, influential and beneficial guiding force in any company.

Here are our top takeaways:

Experiment with “Stay” Interviews

We’re all familiar with the always-important, sometimes-awkward exit interview in which we capture meaningful insight from a departing employee that can help us understand how to improve our organization and existing programs.

But what about “stay” interviews?

Consider conducting regular interviews with your existing talent to understand why they stay at your organization. Learning what people value in your organization can help you proactively manage the company in a way that attracts and retains more like-minded talent.

Codify Company Culture

A recent study found that 86% of companies are actively transforming or have recently completed transformation of their culture, but only 37% feel they’re doing so successfully. Where’s the disconnect?

Perhaps part of the issue is that it’s easier to talk about culture than it is to put culture into action. Instead of focusing on the words that define your culture, focus on the actions related to it.

You can think of culture as a collection of everyday shared habits. Start by defining what matters in your company culture, then identify which shared habits could produce those results. Next, get the whole team to commit to putting in the effort required to perpetuate the new habits identified. And remember—no one is exempt. Habit-building needs to be a collaborative effort driven from the top, down.

Instead of focusing on the words that define your culture, focus on the actions related to it.

Get to the Root of Dissatisfaction—Early

We are in the midst of an employee engagement deficit. Recent studies show that 72% of employees are coping with or have coped with burnout and 77% are unhappy with their careers. On top of that, 70% of employees are disengaged (the highest ever)—and yet we spend a third of our lives at work.

As an HR leader, it is your responsibility to help your company stay ahead of this issue. Often, companies don’t realize people are disengaged until it’s too late. Try tracking these trends through tools such as the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey or TinyPulse, both of which we find provide great insights.

Another approach is to focus on leadership training. A similar study found that 65% of managers are disengaged. How can we expect an organization to be engaged if the leadership is not? By investing in your leaders, you can galvanize the human drivers behind company engagement.

Be Flexible with Adjusting Career Aspirations

People are happiest when they feel their talents are being capitalized on, and HR holds the key to unleashing those talents.

Rather than having your managers ask, “Who wants to…?” consider asking, “Who’s capable of…?” By flipping the question, your employees will be empowered to identify and assert their capabilities. Natural talent is a self-perpetuating motivator, so in addition to increased engagement, you may find yourself with increased output as well.

Rather than having your managers ask, “Who wants to…?” consider asking, “Who’s capable of…?” By flipping the question, your employees will be empowered to identify and assert their capabilities.

Create Experiences, Not Careers

When it comes to career pathing, it’s natural to push your talented employees up a specific corporate ladder. But just because your top sales rep exceeds their goals every quarter doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be the VP of Sales.

HR should promote constructive discussions between employees and managers to help uncover the truth about desired career paths. Instead of asking “Where do you want to go in this company?” ask, “What’s your dream job, and how can I help you get there?”

Be Good at Goodbyes

Just as it’s important to be communicative about your employees’ career goals, it’s also important to discuss plans for when people leave. Even when an employee knows they plan to leave, sharing the intricacies of their job can feel intimidating. As a result, they do what’s known as “corporate cocooning,” protecting the secrets of their job and, ultimately, hurting the business.

In these sensitive scenarios, it’s important for HR leaders to understand the key players in their organization. By creating a collaborative and communicative workplace environment, people can easily knowledge-share early and often, proactively preparing for voluntary turnover. In the best-case scenarios, retirements and resignations don’t have to blindside a company, create setbacks or cause disruptions. Instead, through succession planning, employees on both sides of the transition can be empowered.

A New Role for HR

If this seems like a lot to take on, remember—this is good news for the world of HR. Long gone are the days of HR existing just to deliver paychecks, hire, and fire. These days, HR serves as a strategic business partner and sturdy backbone of growing organizations. From systematizing culture to offering career coaching, HR can offer more to companies than ever before—especially when you remain committed to a proactive approach.


Rebecca Glatt
Rebecca is a Talent Manager at Mainsail. She works closely with the VP of Talent to track, measure, enhance and evolve all recruiting efforts within the portfolio companies.
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