I just attended the fantastic Atlanta SHRM conference and came away from the event realizing that HR executives are the new game-changers of the business world. They’re providing visionary strategic leadership for companies both large and small, and value they bring to the table permeates the entire organization.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Attract, Connect, Engage and Retain,” and these topics were woven into the entire experience. Here’s a review of my two spectacular days – as seen through my “perpetual learner” lens.

A Rockin’ Keynote

Mark Toth (from Manpower) kicked things off with his keynote, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Employment Law (But Didn’t want to Pay a Lawyer to Ask).” This first session was absolutely terrific, and is still generating lots of buzz.

He managed to transform what could have been a plain vanilla presentation into a surprisingly energetic and interactive Q&A. Toward the end he even broke into a highly entertaining singer-songwriter routine, playing guitar as we all sang along.

I suspect that Mr. Toth secretly wishes he could take a sabbatical from his law practice and fulfill a latent desire to compete on American Idol. With his talent and great stage presence he’d win my vote, for sure – as long as he promises to return and present at next year’s SHRM conference!

Networking & Fun

The networking was dynamic, too, and I was able to catch up with lots of former colleagues and clients while meeting many new and interesting people. Everyone was just percolating with information to share, so we were all immersed in high-value content. The exhibit hall was also electrified by top notch products and vendors and the brilliant application of new technologies. You know how at every great party the guests all wind up hanging out in the kitchen? The exhibit hall quickly became that kind of gathering spot for everyone to eat, chat, and just have an exciting, fun-filled time.

The Wave of Technology & Social Media

I found it enlightening and enlivening to see so many HR professionals utilizing social media in really creative ways. As soon as a great quote was offered by a presenter, for example, it went out to thousands of other people around the world via Twitter. Meanwhile lots of experts explained innovative ways to use new tech and social networking to find top talent. They also described the pros and cons, practical implications, and legal ramifications of social media for today’s business leaders.

8 Great Quotes

While there are 100s of golden nuggets I could share from Atlanta SHRM, I selected eight choice ones to inspire you:

“A leader without vision is like a piano player with no piano.” (Jonathon Bowman)
“Employees are motivated in three ways: Hearts, Minds and Pocketbooks.” (Doug Layman)
“For HR leaders to be invited to have a seat at the table they must align their people strategies with business strategies.” (Doug Layman)
“In companies with a strong culture of health, we see higher satisfaction and better job performance.” (Doug Layman)
“Select the right high potentials and drive the culture around the succession plan and future of the organization.” (Ron Strieker)
“Employee engagement is the power under the hood – the human RPM.” (Greg Smith)
“Have a separate performance plan for top performers. They are motivated by different things.” (Greg Smith)
“Be courageous about yourself. Look in the mirror and rate yourself. Determine what competencies you need to improve upon, and focus on those.” (Nancy Vepraskas)

Author's Bio: 

Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS is an internationally distinguished executive coach, corporate consultant, professional speaker, and the founding CEO of her own company, Illustra Consulting. A career acceleration and leadership presence expert, Hathorn created the innovative Predictable Promotion System, a 10-step proprietary process she uses to coach managers aspiring to be directors, directors seeking vice presidential promotions, and VP’s eager to ascend to the C-suite. Hathorn served as a senior level executive for a Fortune 100 company for 25 years, and she has more than 30 years of experience mentoring high potentials for rapid career advancement and extraordinary success.
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