SHRM National 2013 is now in the past, but there are business considerations to examine now or in the near future. It is hard to summarize a conference of this size and magnitude. However, I will share the business trends & HR considerations that I feel were dynamic and applicable for us HR practitioners in the trenches.

Social Responsibility

On Monday, Blake Mycoskie the Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS,  gave the keynote address to kick off the conference. His message was powerful as he described his journey in starting a business grounded in philanthropy. You see, TOMS is not just a company that sells comfortable, quality shoes. TOMS has a “one for one” model when it comes to their business model. What this entails is for every shoe that is sold, TOMS gives one free, specially designed pair away to a child in need of shoes. TOMS doesn’t stop at the shoes-they also do the same for those in need of suitable eyewear, sight-saving surgery or medical treatment. 

Blake decided that he didn’t want to just sell shoes and eyewear and live happily in bliss with a lot of money. He decided instead that he wanted his business to stand for more. To date, he has given away over ten million pairs of shoes to children around the world in fifty different countries. He has not only managed to empower and engage his workforce through his philanthropic efforts but his customer base is equally engaged in the giving. 

Social Responsibility isn’t the next HR buzzword. It is simply the human thing to do. During Blake’s address, I tweeted out:



The business consideration is this: Is “giving back” something you do ad hoc or is it part of your business strategy? There’s a difference between the two and it is important to know which team you are playing for. If ROI comes to mind when you think about social responsibility, try “giving feels good” or as Blake has seen in his own company:

The Culture Club


There has been a lot of discussion about culture over the past year and the discussion continued- as there were several sessions on the topic at this year’s SHRM National Conference. Out of the two sessions I attended on culture-both mentioned Zappos as a company that seems to have gotten culture right.


In the Glassdoor session on Tuesday with CEO, CMG Group (former COO of SHRM), China Gorman and Allyson Willoughby, Senior Vice President of People and General Counsel, Glassdoor- there was an interesting assertion made. The assertion was “culture is the right thing to do.” Culture has been discussed as being necessary connective tissue between the workforce and the company’s mission and values, but the “right thing to do” is a new concept. Why is it the right thing to do? It provides your workforce with a higher purpose and focus. Without purpose and focus, employees are just doing whatever and whatever is not a business strategy or a recipe for company success.


Here’s the second trend/consideration:


You need to know the answers to these questions and so do your employees. Remember it is all about giving your workforce a purpose and focus that leads to productivity and intended financial and non-financial outcomes.


Business Threats and New Opportunities for HR


The last trend/consideration of importance were emerging business threats and the need for HR to be aware and vigilant in providing solutions for these threats. The threats as stated in Jack Smalley, SPHR’s  mega session: “Why the Best CEOs are Turning to HR to Lead the Organization Through Today’s Top Five Threats” were:


1) The ability to innovate

2) Businesses losing their competitive advantage

3) High costs of reckless hiring

4) Being able to retain top talent

5) Regulatory Concerns


The following statements by Jack Smalley, SPHR summarizes the immense importance of these threats:


In addition to high costs of reckless hiring, there is the consideration of reckless retention as explored by Karen Michael, Esq in her mega session called : “Bad Bosses/Big Losses: The Top Legal and Business Strategies to Fix the Boss and Save the Cost”. She discussed the pricey payouts and damaging outcomes caused by retaining bad leadership and creating toxic environments. It was an eye-opening look at the impact that bad management has regarding turnover, unneccesary litigation and poor morale. Workplace Bullying was also cited as being an important business consideration that companies should monitor and manage carefully.


This was the most compelling statement in her session:



Essentially, this means make sure your policies around discrimination, workplace bullying and the proper handling of an investigation are thorough and consistently enforced. No complaint is too benign that it shouldn’t require at least a conversation. Don’t be that employer!



SHRM National provided a lot of food for thought. There are some different rules of engagement at work in business and the economy and it is very clear after this conference that HR needs to be able to rise to the occasion in helping our partners navigate these complex issues.


What will you do to “become more”? I look forward to hearing from you.


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