SHRM Live: HR Influencers Ignite Changes in the Workplace


Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek February 4, 2019
SHRM Live: HR Influencers Ignite Changes in the Workplace

​SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, interviews Gallup President and Chairman Jim Clifton during SHRM Live on Feb. 1. 

​On Feb. 1, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) broadcast "SHRM Live," a livestreamed event in which business and HR leaders talked with SHRM staff about how HR is creating better workplaces.

"If we get it right—if we transform work—we have the capacity to create true social change," said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and CEO of SHRM.

Take the city of Pittsburgh's response to the #MeToo movement: Janet Manuel, SHRM-CP, director of HR for the city, told the SHRM Live audience that the city government implemented bystander training to empower workers to speak up when they saw co-workers being harassed. Training to "follow the rules so we don't get in trouble" wasn't working, she said.

Manuel was part of a panel discussion with Chatrane Birbal, director of policy engagement at SHRM; Melissa Devore, SHRM-SCP, director of HR at SEA Wire and Cable Inc.; and Jameel Rush, SHRM-CP, director of HR at Yoh.

The SHRM live guests explained how HR is changing the workplace through strategy, deep knowledge of the business and getting to know individual workers.

Know the Business and the People

Human resource professionals are influencers who can work as "thought partners" with the C-suite to solve business problems and drive better organizational outcomes, said Beth Grous, chief people officer at TripAdvisor in Needham, Mass.

To be truly influential in their organization, HR practitioners must have a wide knowledge of their business, not just the HR end of it, she said in an interview with SHRM Chief of Staff Emily Dickens.

HR practitioners have to have a baseline knowledge of their company, Grous noted, if they are going to work effectively with leaders to reach organizational goals. And they must be cognizant of the biggest problems their organization face and how HR can drive business solutions.

Generational Diversity

"There are so many dimensions of diversity, and one often overlooked [dimension] is generational diversity," Grous said. "We need to pay close attention to what our workforce looks like and [how it] informs how we think about lots and lots of things."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Recruiting Internally and Externally]

She offered paid leave as one example of how organizations can tailor benefits to appeal to a multigenerational workforce.

"Paid leave is not just for childbirth but expands across the entire span of an employee's lifecycle. The needs of a young parent are different from someone caring for an aging relative."

Taylor said one mistake that organizations make in their recruiting and retention efforts is focusing on one generation—such as Millennials—when the workforce contains no fewer than five generations who are "strikingly different":

  • Millennials expect greater flexibility in when, where and how work is done.
  • Baby Boomers value hierarchy and in-person interaction.
  • Generation X accounts for more than half of the leadership roles globally, playing a critical role in the workplace.
  • Generation Z values career growth and a sense of purpose in their work.
  • Traditionalists—or the Silent Generation—are defined by their teamwork and ability to do more with less. Many are delaying retirement or are re-entering the workforce and learning new skills.

Organizations should consider what matters to all generations, Grous said. E-mail, for example, is not how younger generations are accustomed to receiving information. But she cautioned HR not to make wholesale generalizations about their employees.

Change How We Look at People

Employers talk about how hard it is to find people to fill positions, but the talent they need is there if they change their perspective, said Jim Clifton, CEO and chairman of Washington, D.C.-based Gallup. He is the author of The Coming Jobs War (Gallup Press, 2011) and co-author of Born to Build (Gallup Press, 2018).

"We've got to change how we look at people—not as how old they are or their gender, their criminal background or immigrant status, but the strengths they have," he said.

[See SHRM Online's Q&A with Clifton on Gallup's suprising workforce research.]

Organizations also need to do a better job of shaping their culture to the job seekers they want to attract. Millennials, for example, want more than just a paycheck, he said.

"We're trying to offer them the same culture [developed for people] like me" who focused nearly exclusively on salary. While compensation is important, it's not the only thing younger generations want. "[They] need a rich mission and purpose" in their jobs. "We have to make major changes."

Sometimes the best person for the job is not the obvious choice, Grous pointed out.

One overlooked talent pool, she noted, is your current workforce.

"If you've got a hard-working, smart worker with a willingness to learn and grow and is 50 percent qualified, think about giving them an opportunity rather than searching for the 'unicorn' externally."


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