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Work, Passion and Culture: Key Takeaways from SHRM

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At the Annual Conference of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on June 20th, recruiting expert Matthew Kaiser invoked ikigai, a Japanese term that means “a purpose, a reason for being.” It’s determined by answering these four questions:

  1. What do you love?
  2. What does the world need?
  3. What can you be paid for?
  4. What are you good at?
This theme recurred throughout the day, as seminars explored how companies and employees are working together to build a better workplace, reward success and even help the world. One speaker described how a company changed its focus to be completely customer-centric, and saw results in both the corporate culture and the bottom line. Another speaker made a business case for pursuing purpose, demonstrating why “conscious capitalism” scores high on integrity as well as ROI.

Post-911 veterans were the focus of another seminar, with an industry expert exposing the misperceptions that need to be corrected to help companies tap into this valuable talent pool. Finally, speakers offered a look at how and why “gender diversity” programs may have failed in the past, with concrete, inclusive and actionable methods for doing it better this time. A key takeaway for the human resources professionals attending the conference is that they can align recruitment efforts with employee engagement programs to meet corporate goals and increase profitability.

How Workplace Culture Can Drive Business Results
David Almeda, vice president human resources, Kronos Incorporated

In 2010, Kronos, a workforce management software company, engineered a shift to a more strategic and proactive culture. They focused on retaining and rewarding top performers, encouraging them to thrive on results and change, engaging them in the process and positioning them as a competitive advantage. Not surprisingly, Kronos also saw a big increase in its business results.

Managers and their employees maintain a continuous dialogue with candid feedback, which helps to build the trust and transparency needed for progress to be made. It was this new direction that helped Kronos adopt and succeed with an “open vacation” policy, where employees can take as much time off as they want. Open vacation allows a company to drop costly accruals of paid time off (PTO) and reduces red tape while conveying trust in its employees and providing them more flexibility. At Kronos, the savings from accruals was reinvested in offering benefits that reward the high performance culture they work to achieve.

This doesn’t just benefit retention, though. It also helps to attract like-minded employees who know they will thrive in a demanding, rewarding environment. “Top talent wants to work with top talent,” noted Almeda.

Pursuing Purpose in Building Your Brand
Matt Kaiser, Employer Branding & Digital Recruitment, Ericsson

Aligning your personal goals and skills with those of the world and the workforce creates a more complete picture of how important it is for employers and employees for find their best match. This big picture approach also informs how Ericcson, a global communications and technology corporation, was inspired to incorporate giving back into every aspect of its culture.

What Kaiser called “conscious capitalism” seems like a natural evolutionary step for people invested in doing great work and helping make the world a better place. And the movement increasingly is being led by companies we’ve all heard of.

Tom’s Shoes is also known as The One for One Company, because for every pair of Tom’s shoes sold, the company donates a pair to a needy child. Eyeglass retailer Warby Parker also matches one for one, for each pair of glasses sold. Clothing company Patagonia is working to reduce our environmental footprint by repairing broken or worn-out gear, recycling Patagonia products that buyers no longer need and reclaiming gear that has worn out. In 2015, grocery chain Trader Joe's gave food banks more than $321 million worth of products that were not fit for sale but were safe for consumption.

For the past 15 years, Kaiser’s employer has played a vital role in disaster relief efforts via Ericcson Response, a volunteer group that races to the scene of disasters to restore communications and provide technical expertise to help speed recovery efforts.

In addition to meeting the company’s goal of giving back, the program also elevates and differentiates the brand. Kaiser mentioned that a recent hire cited the opportunity to volunteer for Ericcson Response as a prime motivator for deciding to join the company.

A Business Case for Hiring Veterans: Designing and Implementing a Hiring Program
Lida Citroen, Principal, LIDA360, LLC

Lida Citroen, a recruiting consultant who specializes in the veteran population, shared a wealth of information that can help inform both veterans and the companies who want to hire them. She first noted that there are issues that may inhibit companies from seriously pursuing veteran job candidates.

Communication is very different between the civilian world and the military world. As just one example, vets may are used to viewing jobs according to a Military Occupation Code (MOC) rather than a job description. In addition, vets are often self-effacing, referring to accomplishments that their unit achieved vs. civilian candidates who are more comfortable with claiming credit for their successes.

Although vets may return to the same location they left when they deployed, the culture may have changed dramatically. They may be unused to the vast amount of information consumers now share via social media, and be hesitant to reveal too much about themselves online, even on sites such as LinkedIn that are geared toward recruiting and career information.

Citroen points to qualities many vets share that make them ideal candidates for civilian employment:

  • Character
  • Leadership Skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-Making

Vets often excel at logistics, strategy and the nuts and bolts aspects of project planning. The culture they’ve come from generally means they’re persistent, loyal, passionate and dedicated. Who wouldn’t want that in an employee?

Bridging the Gender Gap: A New Approach to Shattering the Glass Ceiling
Sara Shinneman and Deborah Rocco, senior consultants, Interaction Associates

As much progress as we’ve made in America for gender equality, serious gaps still exist in wage parity and executive level inclusion. One point Shinneman made early on in her talk was that misperceptions about gender differences, among men and women, are hampering progress.

When we talk about a male and a female candidate, for instance, we know only one data point about that person – gender. We may make inferences based on that, but they’re not based on fact. Here are a few more perceptions that should be challenged, she said:

  • Nothing will change in the workplace because it’s a societal issue
  • Men are threatened if women act for equality
  • Women aren’t naturally ambitious
  • HR doesn’t have the power to move the organization
  • Any discussion of equality incorporates “shame and blame”

Some barriers are real, however. One attendee noted that male senior executives in her company who regularly invite younger male colleagues out for drinks are reluctant to do the same with female colleagues because they fear the perception that their reasons aren’t work-related. They just don’t know how to do it in a way that would be looked on favorably. This factor alone can hamper mentoring relationships that could benefit female employees.

Rocco believes that organizations can be a model for the change they want to see. She asks, how do we empower men and women to leverage leadership traits across the spectrum? Each gender has different strengths the can be borrowed by the other to achieve the best solutions. By understanding that each man and woman brings a different personality, background and skiils to the table, we’re able to realize that often, “women’s issues are actually people issues.”

One recommendation for HR professionals is to build a business case that will resonate with the C-suite. Arm yourself with the research and data to back up your goals; this will help to displace the myths and help leaders move toward true change.

From policy to practice, want needs to happen next? We need to create safe forums where men and woman can create action. We need to operate in a space of curiosity, not shame and blame. We need to focus on mentoring across diverse groups of current employees and bringing in diverse talent. We need to measure our progress and celebrate accomplishments all along the way.

We want, the speakers say, “to create an organizational culture where our sons and daughters can realize their potential.” This sounds like a goal that everyone at the conference can agree to.