Top Takeaways from SHRM 2021 

Thousands of HR professionals from around the world gathered in Las Vegas—and online—to attend the SHRM 2021 Annual Conference and Expo, held on Sept. 9-12, 2021. Although the event looked a bit different this year, the theme was clear: to build workplaces where employees and employers thrive, now more than ever, during these ever-changing times. We’re sharing our key SHRM takeaways that you can start practicing in the workplace today. 

Embrace life’s changes with resiliency.  
Amid the change and uncertainty that COVID-19 has created, it’s important we reframe our thinking and realize that change always brings gifts. These gifts include redefined priorities, new and deeper relationships, depth of character, and more joy and fulfillment in life. But in order to do so, we must first identify what we must let go of and become proactive instead of reactive in how we deal with change. Furthermore, this shift in mindset will allow us to build a resilient workplace culture. By implementing the three pillars of workforce resilience—culture alignment, continuous conversation and active engagement—we’ll be able to continually adapt to the fast-changing needs of employees and the greater workplace environment.  

Reimagine HR and continue to evolve the workplace culture. 
Over the last 18 months, most executives agree that HR must be radically redefined to meet the changing workforce expectations and business landscapes. For those who are currently going through this process or have yet to make the leap, keep in mind the five most critical areas of focus when reimagining the HR function: 

  1. Hire for the who, not the what. By hiring utility players—those that are high-performing contributors in many areas—they’re able to jump in and collaborate wherever they’re needed.  
  2. Focus on learning, not development. Whether it’s expanding skillsets, gaining new experiences or technical training, embed the learning process in everyday business. 
  3. Pay for capabilities, reward for value creation. Goals are based on whether you’re creating value for the business. In turn, bonuses can be for very specific value creation.  
  4. Invest in great internal communications. Great communication drives culture, facilitates dialogue and brings real-time business insight to the forefront. 
  5. Make every decision through the lens of the employee experience. It’s not about making our lives easier, but making our employees’ lives easier and creating value for them. 

Still, no one really has it all figured out. Same with the development of new workplace cultures—it’s still evolving and will continue to evolve as we come out of the pandemic. But regardless of remote, hybrid or on-premise work arrangements, it all begins with alignment, specifically with the company’s mission. It’s an exciting time to be in HR and the future of work is ours to create; a cohesive workplace culture that delivers high performance, belonging and safety for all. 
Nurture employee well-being and mental health. 
A vibrant, supportive, innovative culture is the first step to workplace success. The more engaged an employee is with their culture, the better work they’ll put forth. This is best achieved when employees are supported in their mental health. HR professionals can make a huge difference in an employee’s life by taking the necessary steps to make them feel seen, appreciated, and most importantly, understood. Recognizing and driving awareness around mental health concerns, empowering employees with support and resources, and kickstarting those open and non-judgmental conversations all play a factor in creating a work environment that generates fewer absences, higher productivity and greater loyalty to the company. Sustaining strong mental health and advancing employee well-being are equally as important. A new integrated approach, Total Worker Health®, adheres to the following to promote employee well-being:  

Keep workers safe  
Establish workplace policies, practices and programs that grow health  
Worker’s well-being 

If we’re constantly developing new strategies to help employees thrive and reach their full potential, then the impact on organizational performance and outcomes will be a positive one. 

From evolving employment arrangements to new technologies, the concept of work is being redefined again and again. As we navigate the new normal—however that may look months from now—the future is in our hands and we look forward to new beginnings. 

We hope to see you in person next year at SHRM 2022 in New Orleans!

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