Breakthroughs and Competencies at the SHRM 2016 Annual Conference

By SHRM Research staff Jul 11, 2016

The SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition, held in late June in our own backyard in Washington, D.C., was an amazing experience. Informative sessions, lively speakers, exceptional keynoters, a comfortable Certification Lounge and more made this one of the best SHRM conferences ever. Over 15,000 attendees were there, learning, networking, building knowledge and developing expertise. Even after hours, you could find HR professionals—who know how to make the most of their time—enjoying every part of the city.

The members of the SHRM competencies team, which develops and oversees SHRM's Competency Model, attended the conference with competencies in mind. We're pleased to confirm that each of the nine competencies was reflected in the massive schedule of great activities. Here are some of our reactions to, observations of and reflections on this "breaktHRough" event.

The buzz was tremendous. We saw a large number of people meeting old friends and making new ones. Over a thousand attendees celebrated with other SHRM-CPs and SHRM-SCPs at the Certification Lounge on Monday evening. People mingled and enjoyed a drink or two—a great example of Relationship Management in action.

The volunteers were spectacular. SHRM volunteers continuously exuded positive energy as they guided us through the maze that is the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. They genuinely wanted #SHRM16 to be an enjoyable experience for members and staff alike.

Finally, change management is getting the attention it deserves. More than a few sessions broached the topic of change, personal or organizational. Despite variations in content, the message remained constant: Change is disruptive and difficult to acclimate to, and it takes effort for change to work. But there are strategies to better plan for, implement and adapt to change. While change management isn't new, it appears that organizations are recognizing now more than ever the importance of change management as a core HR functional area. As an HR professional, Consultation is critical, and those who understand change management are better positioned to lead and manage change efforts in their organizations. SHRM is already on it—with a new change management seminar coming this fall

Everyone's still talking about Millennials. Members of the newest generation participating in today's workforce act, learn and work differently from their predecessors. Different isn't a bad thing, though. Millennials have a lot to offer their employers. They're passionate about their work and want to feel a sense of purpose in doing it. That said, the most effective organizations are those in which HR promotes a culture that leverages the unique perspectives of their diverse workforce and uses generational differences to a strategic advantage. We must focus on our Global & Cultural Effectiveness. First, let's open up Communication channels and provide various options for employees to interact and collaborate. A one-size-fits-all approach will no longer do. Second, let's engage employees in developing new strategies for Relationship Management, to create and maintain cohesion across the organization and the workforce.

Technological advances are always on the horizon. What we've seen to date could pale in comparison to what's ahead. (Ever heard of "cobots"? The word rhymes with robots, and they're like co-workers. Check out the article here to learn more.) Technological advances will change the work of HR professionals, especially in talent management areas such as selection and training. Don't be complacent when it comes to your HR Expertise and your Business Acumen, because new advances are emerging almost daily. To meet one of the most important goals of recertification and to be at the forefront of our ever-changing profession and business environment, you must continuously advance your education.

While we are on the topic … Business Acumen is critical. Many speakers emphasized the importance, relevance and necessity of possessing strong Business Acumen for success as an HR professional—even in sessions that didn't appear to relate to business acumen. While HR Expertise is critical, the practice of HR in today's world is about so much more. HR is the department that collaborates and consults with all other departments. Whether part of a large HR department or an HR department of one, practitioners must know about and understand all the relationships between HR and the organization's core business functions (e.g., operations, finance, marketing, technology, overall industry). HR professionals must be able to apply that knowledge in order to contribute to the successful implementation of organizational strategy. The overall message we heard during Annual Conference was: Without strong Business Acumen, you're setting yourself up to fail.

The future of HR is exciting. One thing seems certain: HR is in for some important changes. This is the decade of human capital, and, to keep our seat at the table and expand our role, we must prove HR's value to stakeholders and executives. SHRM President and CEO Hank Jackson said in his opening keynote speech that HR should focus on innovation, competition and fairness to help our profession—and the organizations we support—succeed.  By sharpening your proficiency in each of the nine competencies—Critical Evaluation, Business Acumen, HR Expertise, Ethical Practice, Relationship Management, Consultation, Global & Cultural Effectiveness, Communication and Leadership & Navigation—you'll be prepared now and in the future to meet that challenge. Applying these competencies to implement and evaluate HR processes and programs, HR will demonstrate its strategic impact on the organization as a whole.

The SHRM competencies team's new Twitter account, @HRCompetencies, helped us keep on top of all things #SHRM16, including the #haka movement and #CriticalEvaluation tips. With all that we learned at #SHRM16, we couldn't be more excited about what's in store for #SHRM17—see you in New Orleans!

Joe Jones, Ph.D., is director of HR competencies and resources research for SHRM. Lindsay Northon, M.A., is specialist for HR competencies, and Ashley Miller, M.A., is senior specialist for HR competencies at SHRM.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect