SHRM Wrap-Up: Employee Engagement

SHRM 2016 in Washington, DC We sat down with our President and CEO, David Sargeant, to chat about his trip to this year’s SHRM conference in Washington, DC. Below, Dave shares some of his biggest takeaways and insights into the world of recruiting.

1. What were your goals for attending SHRM this year?

I wanted to hear more about trends in the talent management space, as well as look for new tools and technology to support our organization’s recruitment efforts.

2. Top 2-3 biggest takeaways?

The biggest focus this year was on employee engagement. Almost every seminar I attended covered employee engagement in some shape or form, and what to do about it. It was very clear that this was a major topic for all companies. I came away with some interesting statistics as well.

Several panels shared that 32% of all employees are engaged, which means they are positive and supportive of the company’s efforts. Interestingly enough, the percentage of employees is up from 10 years ago when only 25% were engaged. On the other hand, 50% of employees are disengaged. These individuals are essentially neutral and can go either way. They may not hurt the company, but they won’t help, either.

The biggest challenge for companies is the 18% who are actively disengaged and will go out of their way to create turmoil or negativity within an organization. In my opinion, companies have to start working with those employees who are actively disengaged, because those individuals tend to have a strong influence within the organization. Managers typically prefer to work with the employees who are easy to manage, but it’s the employees who can be difficult that often need the most help.

Rather than ignore these employees, I’d encourage everyone to embrace them and go above and beyond to turn them into the engaged group. After all, they have proven themselves to be influencers; let’s get them in the right camp.

Empowerment is another key area. While managers spend a lot of time fixing an employee’s issues, it would be more empowering for the employee in the long run if the manager helped that person understand how to solve problems and come to the right solutions.

3. What was the most unusual/thought-provoking/interesting thing you saw or heard at the show?

There was interesting information about performance management with all of the rules and regulations HR puts into place. While regulations often exist for a good reason, they are also open to interpretation, and your employee population will push them to their limits. The speaker gave a compelling example about how people would interpret a 55 MPH sign. According to an audience poll, some would obey the speed limit, while others would estimate how fast they could go before being ticketed. The important takeaway here is that managers should expect employees to test the boundaries of an organization in the same way. Don’t get hung up on the little things. Instead, engage their sense of purpose.

One speaker used the Japanese term ikigai, which means “a reason for being.” Companies can’t engage everyone the same way. You have to individualize your employee’s sense of purpose, whatever that may be. That sense of purpose is different for everyone and encompasses Passion, Mission, Vocation, and Profession.

4. HR, and by extension recruiting, is always evolving. How do you see the profession changing over the next few years?

Engagement is going to continue to be a major topic in the HR and recruiting world, especially as the labor market tightens and it gets more difficult to recruit candidates. Engaging an employee’s sense of purpose will drive retention in the long run.

What I didn’t hear much this year was that social media will solve everything. Everyone seems to have come to terms with the idea that social media plays an important role, but it’s only a small piece of a larger strategy and should be viewed as such. Don’t count on a flood of candidates coming through social media to solve all your hiring needs; it’s just not that easy.

5. Obviously, it’s always fun to attend the show, but you want to get out and enjoy the city while you’re traveling. What did you do in DC during your visit?

I enjoyed a lot of great ethnic food while staying in DC. I didn’t want to eat at the hotel or in chains, especially while traveling in a city like DC. My passion is Thai food, especially in South Florida where we have a lot of great Thai restaurants. But I’m from England, where Indian food is very popular. I rediscovered my love of Indian curries while traveling in DC.

It was also refreshing to walk around the city, which is something else you don’t get to do much in South Florida. Walking around helped me feel immersed in the city’s history and culture.

About SHRM

SHRM is the world’s largest human resources professional association, representing over 285,000 members and 575 affiliated chapters globally. The organization hosts the industry’s largest HR conference and exposition.

HR professionals attend to learn about the latest tools, technology, and best practices. With over 200 educational sessions, workshops, and seminars, attendees have the opportunity to earn credits towards SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP, and other HR designations. The annual conference hosts thousands of attendees, including HR practitioners and vendors. This year’s conference was held in Washington, DC.