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Evolve Your HR Skillset and Run Fearlessly into the Storm

Tuesday July 9th, 2024

Estimated time to read: 2 minutes, 45 seconds

One of the many examples of street art at SHRM24.

I recently attended my first SHRM Conference in Chicago which also happened to be my first-ever HR conference. While familiar with human capital management (HCM) technology, I have never had the honor of being surrounded by thousands of human resources (HR) professionals who depend on that technology to manage their HR operations.

The experience was eye opening and humbling. I came away with a better understanding of the massive challenges today’s People Heroes face every day.

And, according to SHRM CEO and President, Johnny C. Taylor Jr., it’s only going to get more challenging. He warned (supported by ominous images and videos of thunder and lightning playing behind him), a ‘polycrisis’ is coming, and it’s being fueled by multiple societal issues that will have a significant impact on the way we work. To overcome, Taylor urged HR needs to embrace a ‘Buffalo Mindset’ and run straight through the storm with determination.

SHRM CEO and President, Johnny C. Taylor Jr. during his general session.

What is contributing to this polycrisis?

1. The Rise of AI

It’s no surprise that artificial intelligence (AI) was the hottest topic at SHRM24. As Taylor pointed out, the rise of artificial intelligence and its widespread usage in the workplace is a huge challenge facing HR professionals right now and one that must be addressed head on. When properly utilized, AI tools can propel businesses and improve the employee experience (EX) by making employees more strategic, productive and responsive.

But are we ready? According to isolved’s AI at Work study, out of the 2,000-plus U.S.-based employees who were surveyed, 67% feel their organization isn’t quite ready for AI because they don’t have a formal policy or ethics code in place. HR must “run headlong into this issue,” said Taylor.

AI quote at SHRM: "AI won't replace humans, but humans with AI will replace humans without AI." - Karim Lakhani

I captured this quote during one of the AI sessions I attended. It’s from Harvard Business School professor, Karim R. Lakhani and it really hit home for me. If this doesn’t fuel your AI fire to make it your company’s number one focus, I don’t know what will. For deeper insights into Lakhani’s thoughts on this topic, check out his discussion in this Harvard Business Review, “The New World of Work” podcast.

2. The Need to Upskill and Reskill Workers at the Pace of Innovation

Another challenge Taylor said is fueling this polycrisis is an education system that cannot keep up with the demands of the workforce. Students are falling behind and are coming out of school lacking essential skills like critical thinking, problem solving and adaptability. This, in turn, will put more pressure on HR professionals to help those workers develop the basic skills to succeed in their role.

Add to that the need for AI training across the organization, and the challenges get even greater.

So, what can be done? isolved’s Voice of the Workforce study, revealed that out of the 1,100 US-based employees surveyed, 82% said they feel more engaged at work when they have clear learning paths that support their professional growth. Providing employees with access to a learning management system (LMS) can help upskill and reskill employees to keep up with the pace of innovation.

3. Rising Incivility

The third challenge contributing to this polycrisis is that civility is under threat in the workplace and beyond. Taylor stated that “We’re as diverse as we’ve ever been but as divided as we’ve ever been.”

According to a SHRM survey of over 1,600 U.S. employees, instances of incivility have become a regular occurrence in the workplace with 66% saying they have experienced or witnessed incivility in their workplace.

In the past, these types of conversations were considered taboo and avoided, but SHRM addressed this topic head on with its many civility-focused sessions and its Café Civili-tea Lounge in the expo hall that provided attendees a place where they could connect and explore SHRM’s 1 Million Civil Conversations initiative launched earlier this year.  

The SHRM24 Café Civili-Tea lounge.

It's an issue we at isolved are addressing head on as well. In fact, isolved’s Chief People Officer, Amy Mosher recently shared her thoughts on this topic in a WorkLife Magazine article where she shared that “ultimately employers should be revisiting policies and making sure employees are aware of them—and policies will differ depending on the size and culture of the organization. Not one company is the same. It’s tough to brush it with a specific broad stroke kind of approach.”

Are you ready to run into the storm?

As I reflect on my experience at SHRM24, I am inspired by the resilience and determination of HR professionals everywhere. They are the heartbeat of their organizations and have the power to shape the future of work.

While today’s challenges are daunting, by taking on a buffalo mindset and charging through the storm with courage and purpose, I am confident that they will lead their teams into a brighter, more inclusive and technologically advanced tomorrow.

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