#SHRM17: A New Perspective on ‘All In’

June 22, 2017 Sarah Payne


Angry Man

At SHRM’s annual conference in New Orleans this week, the theme was “all in” – what it means to be all invested in your career, in the business, and in your people.

What happens when you’re not all in? What if you don’t treat your employees like humans? I got a glimpse of that on my journey home yesterday.

While waiting for a layover in Newark, I received several text updates that my flight was delayed. I wouldn’t get home until past midnight, but at least I was getting home. After four hours of waiting in the terminal, a woman on the same flight yelled in a panic, “They canceled the flight!” Did I receive any communication from the airline about the cancelation? Nope. And neither did about 40 other people on two other canceled flights that night.

Rather than apologizing and finding a solution for us, employees at the customer service desk told us there was a flight at 7 p.m. the next day. There was no other option. And at close to midnight with 40 people waiting in line for answers, a couple of the customer service representatives packed up to head home for the night.

You can probably guess which airline this was. Cancellations happen, of course, but the situation was handled so horribly that you can bet none of us will ever choose that airline again. I don’t blame the customer service representatives. I blame the toxic company culture that clearly isn’t all in for its employees, so who could expect them be all in for customers?

I finally made it home early this morning. During my epic journey of planes, trains, and automobiles, I thought about some of my top takeaways from the conference and what it means to be all in:

  • All in … for the employee experience: Do you want more employees to have better days at work? Laszlo Bock, former SVP of people operations at Google, stressed the importance of building trust and autonomy. “Give people a little more freedom than you’re comfortable with,” he said. Build more meaning into the day-to-day by weaving storytelling into the fabric of your culture.
  • All in … with your feedback: Jennifer Lee, director of learning and development at JB Training Solutions, gave some practical tips for delivering feedback at work. Encourage managers and employees to have small conversations often to avoid miscommunication and emotional “explosions,” which can happen when feedback is only delivered during an annual review. Systemize feedback so it can be delivered easily in the moment. And for those people who tend to have emotional responses? Try a walking meeting. Go to a setting that’s more comfortable and less formal than an office.
  • All in … for inclusion: Are you struggling to get your D&I initiative off the ground? David Rock, founder and director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, suggested the best way to reduce unconscious bias and make people feel included is not with mandatory trainings, but through shared goals and values. In strategy+business, Rock writes, “when people perceive one another as members of the same in-group, racial bias – and possibly other forms of bias against groups of people – tends to melt away. Thus, the way to increase inclusion in the workplace is to make everyone feel like they’re part of the same team.”
  • All in … with your attention: 47% of the time our minds involuntarily wander off of the task at hand, according to Potential Project’s Marissa Afton. It’s part of our P.A.I.D. reality – we are pressured, always-on, information-overloaded, and distracted. Mindfulness is a way to manage our attention – building more gray matter in our brains to enhance neuroplasticity. Read tips for weaving mindfulness into your organization in our interview with WorkHuman speaker Rasmus Hougaard.

What stood out most to me this week was the consensus that HR leaders have a huge opportunity to lead culture change in their organizations, as opposed to just tolerating it. With that comes a fundamental change in what it means to work in HR.

“HR is the sexiest function in the company,” said LinkedIn’s Pat Wadors. Do you agree?

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