Creating Better Workplaces: SHRM 2019 Expo Recap

Posted by Lisa Oyler on Jul. 3, 2019

I just returned from an enlightening experience at this year’s SHRM Expo in Las Vegas. Were you there?

If so, I’d be willing to wager you brought back your own trove of insights and ideas to implement in your organization.

And if you couldn’t make it this year, don’t fret. I took great notes.

This year’s theme resonated with me as soon as I heard it: Creating Better Workplaces.

At Access Development, we take the quality of our workplace very seriously. We’ve received multiple local and national recognitions including being named as the top midsize workplace in the state of Utah. That was a big deal for us. Not just because it’s fun to win awards (though it is), but because it means our people are happy. Because when people thrive, organizations flourish.

Even though we at Access already seem to be providing a positive work environment, the theme of the conference reminded me that there are always areas for improvement. Always places to do better.

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Finding the "Right" in Employees

The opening remarks challenged us, as HR professionals to ask ourselves how we can create more inclusive workplaces. This starts with the candidates we hire. Too often we post an open position with a very specific skillset in mind to fill it. Without intending to, we’ve eliminated candidates who may be a great fit for our company before we even have a chance to meet them. Instead of looking for the ways they look “wrong” on paper, we should search for the “rights” they could bring to our workplaces.

Oftentimes, candidates with disabilities or criminal histories, veterans and people over the age of 50 would be the missing puzzle piece if we would only shift our perspective. Inclusivity and diversity are healthy for corporate culture. They breed strong workspaces where the status quo is challenged, new ideas are born and success abounds. But tapping into underused talent pools isn’t enough. We need to cultivate an environment where problems get solved, differences unravel and individuals evolve.

SHRM 2019 Keynote Addresses

Throughout the conference, speakers tapped into specific ways to improve our workplace and develop an environment where all employees will prosper. Here were a few tips from the experts:

  • Be Curious

Martha Stewart spoke to us about the importance of continuous learning. She pointed out the impact of asking questions, seeking new knowledge and adapting to change. She said, “when you’re through changing, you’re through.”

  • Have Courage

SHRM BreneBrene Brown taught that vulnerability is not a weakness, but a critical step to become a courageous leader. Have tough conversations, trust your people, live your values and recover from failures.

She told us, "People are the hardest part of work. You choose to show up every day and be brave, and meet people where they are, to fight for what's right, to build cultures of exclusivity and equity and belonging. I think you have one of the toughest, most courageous jobs of them all."

  • Break Boundaries of Expectations

Vineet Nayar spoke of the magic in making the impossible, possible. The first critical step is to believe it can be done. It will likely require us to bend the boundaries of logic and reason but transformations can happen. He challenged us to launch experiments, rather than initiatives and to be open to the possibilities that occur. Just because no one has done it before, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

  • Give Back

SHRM Blake (3)In the closing keynote, Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, encouraged us to choose small positive changes in our daily routines so that we can take better care of ourselves. This will allow us to be champions of our people.  I have always believed that giving back and being part of the community and giving back to your neighbors reap rewards much deeper than profits, so his message hit home for me. He encouraged us to provide opportunities for our employees to give back to the community and spoke of the incredible bonds that they’ll form in the process.

Other Hot Topics at SHRM 2019

In addition to these keynote addresses, there were sessions covering just about everything you can imagine that HR professionals encounter on the job. We discussed the challenges and benefits of working with freelancers, the impact financial wellness has on talent retention, and how to close the growing skills gap. Some topics were more familiar than others but I walked away from each session with an idea to take back to the office and a new way of thinking about that particular topic.


SHRM Booth2-1As if there wasn’t enough to learn from the inspiring speakers, there were over 700 booths with products, services and ideas to help HR professionals be successful. Access Perks took a team for our employee discount programs and there wasn’t a dull moment in the booth. They gave away hundreds of t-shirts, travel certificates, free memberships, socks and more.

Re-Charged and Ready to Roll

All in all, it was a long weekend well spent. My HR cup was filled and I returned motivated and excited to experiment with my new learnings. I’m already looking forward to SHRM 2020.

Topics: HR, corporate culture, best places to work, top workplaces, SHRM

Lisa Oyler

Written by Lisa Oyler

Lisa has over 25 years of human resources and training and development experience along with a passion to help others make a difference both personally and professionally in all that they do. Her specialties include: Employee Relations, Recruitment, Management Training, Coaching, Performance Management, Orientation, Customer Service Trends & Training and Strength Assessment.