We had an unscheduled visit in the #SHRM19 conference bloggers lounge on the second day of the Vegas HR conference. SHRM CEO Johnnie C. Taylor stopped by with his Chief of Staff, Emily M. Dickens. It was a 45-minute intimate conversation with about 18 bloggers and a few SHRM staff that happened to be present at this afternoon pop up get together.
There was no formal agenda and plenty of time for those present to pepper both with some hard hitting and transparent questions about SHRM’s decision to work with the White House and other business leaders to tackle issues such as the skills gap and second chance hiring.
Johnnie was direct in his response to these concerns as he reiterated the importance of SHRM’s presence and involvement in having legislative actions presented to Congress. He was clear this was not a political statement and even referenced some professional backlash he received years before for his support of Hilary Clinton. He pointed out that every decision made by SHRM to push forward a “People First “agenda in the workplace will include both sides of the political isle.. He stated there will often be 10-20 percent (or more) of the SHRM membership that may have a divergent viewpoint on all of the major agenda items,and that’s why it is so important to air our views and be transparent. He was steadfast in his approach to moving the SHRM agenda forward for the benefits of our members and all individuals in the workplace, not for any partisan political reason, and the need to be clear to members in doing so.
We discussed ageism at length. An agenda item for SHRM on both a national and local level as we head toward 2020. One of the members of the blogger team even shared their own personal journey of dealing with discriminatory behavior in trying to attain full-time work during a three-year time frame.
The bloggers also thanked Johnnie for the visibility of new activity in the area of individuals with disabilities, which was highlighted by some great video and live discussion on the main stage this year. Many individuals on the blogging team face challenges with their own family and friends in attaining opportunity for individuals with challenges to contribute in the workforce.
The conversation also turned personal for a few minutes as Johnnie shared his own work/life balance situation, as it was his daughter’s birthday this past week, and he had to be at work here in Vegas with all of us. He noted he was going to have a special day with her right at the end of the conference.
We also chatted about where the line between civility and inappropriateness, in differences of opinion, needs to be drawn.
The conversation was just that — a conversation. Johnnie and Emily listened to viewpoints on these and other issues facing the HR community and the conversation appeared to be well-received by all the bloggers who were present.
For me, this was the highlight of a great conference…a face to face conversation about relevant HR issues with the leadership of our society. We need more of these discussions with small groups in the future. I’m counting on everyone to do their part.