Breaking Through: Overflow Sessions, Feather Boas, #SHRM16 and You

By Alex Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP May 2, 2016
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It was Las Vegas 2011, and my first time attending the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition as a staff member. In the bowels of the convention center, I saw her—the same person who had been yelling at our information booth the day before—tired, stressed out, angst surrounding her as thoroughly as the neon blue feather boa she wore (a prize from some exhibitor in the exposition hall, no doubt). Being a psychologist, my initial clinical diagnosis was: “Oh no…”

Nevertheless, I approached her and offered my assistance. As soon as she spotted my official badge, she shared her frustration, her voice cracking and her eyes filling with tears. She was missing a critical session! It had an overflow area where she could watch. But she couldn't stand! She had to sit down! She'd had knee surgery! A whole week of walking was making it worse!

Needless to say, I was moved by her plight. I found her a seat at the session. I gave her information about accessing the session later with on-demand tools. I checked in on her after the session ended.

Some might view this incident as a simple transaction, a SHRM staffer just doing his job to help out a conference attendee in distress. But for me, this incident meant a lot more: It crystallized the fundamental reason for SHRM’s existence. It was my breakthrough "aha!" moment.

My brief but meaningful interaction with our boa-clad colleague with the bad knees actually defined for me, clear as day, the bond between SHRM and the HR profession. People like this attendee—people like you—care about professional development. You care about your career. You care about recertification credits. You care about doing great work. And SHRM is your partner in helping you reach your goals. Researchers call this the "psychological contract." I call it "commitment"—specifically, SHRM's commitment to you.

Any organization can provide training on new regulations, or offer toolkits for writing policy documents, or sell you a certification exam, or publish newsletters on hot topics or pull together meetings. But only SHRM is committed to helping you advance your career and your professional development, to helping all of us advance the HR profession as a whole.

The special relationship between HR and SHRM is undeniable. Our mission as an organization is to promote effective HR management and career success. For nearly 70 years, we have taken this journey together with you, and we strive to continue to serve you for at least 70 more. That’s SHRM's commitment to you.

The SHRM Annual Conference embodies—epitomizes—that commitment. It's our Super Bowl, World Series, Kentucky Derby and Indy 500. It's where HR makes breakthroughs. Thousands of my favorite people will be there, including you, I hope, and I look forward to seeing so many HR professionals experience their own breakthroughs, every step of the way.

If you see me, stop and say hello. Ask me anything, whether you're happy, sad, angry, confused, determined or noncommittal. Because SHRM is committed. We're eager to help you break through to your own moments of truth.

What will your breakthrough be at #SHRM16? Find out more about the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition.

Alex Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, is senior vice president of knowledge development for SHRM.

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