SHRM22 Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. Recap: Are You a Thermometer or Thermostat?
SHRM opened their annual conference with a lively keynote from SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. He enthusiastically greeted the HR audience as people who care about people and referred to HR as the noblest of all professions. As one of the few marketers in the room, I cheered in appreciation.
Johnny set the stage revisiting the effects of the pandemic and our collective “covid clarity” about our lives, jobs, priorities, health, and how we define a successful life. What really matters? During the quarantine, we felt powerless sitting at home watching the death tolls rise. Companies and governments were supposed to keep us safe. They failed.
We had entered a VUCA world.
- Volatility: We found ourselves living in a volatile and unpredictable world.
- Uncertainty: We faced uncertainty about our health, safety, jobs, and even toilet paper!
- Complexity: We encountered confusion and chaos regarding masks mandates, proof of vaccination, multiple variants, and conflicting medical treatment paths.
- Ambiguous: There was a lack of clarity in available information and confusion in government and corporate policies and responses.
Workers have now changed how they view the employer/employee relationship. They have new expectations from their employers and of HR. Society expects more of HR. Johnny tied this to the conference theme “Cause the Effect.” He used this as a rallying cry, a paradigm shift and call to action. Taylor declared, “Humankind needs us so badly right now!” We must deliver on this ambitious and aspirational plan. We can cause the effect.
The world has changed forever. So, now what?
Johnny shared the story of a meeting preparing for the keynote. A colleague asked Johnny the question “Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?” One measures the temperature. The other changes it.
Johnny passionately challenged us to become the thermostat as a profession. To cause the effect. To influence the hearts and minds of employees and executives for mutual benefit. To better people’s lives and maximize human potential. To demonstrate courageous power.
Because of the pandemic, HR is having more strategic conversations. Crisis accelerates change. Johnny presented three main priorities.
- Mental Health. Johnny echoed what many in the industry have been saying for months. Companies need to take some responsibility for the mental health of their employees. He cited a recent SHRM report that found one in four employees feels hopeless. We need to make mental health a priority and lean in on empathy.
- Culture. Johnny challenged us to rewrite the outdated social contract between employers and employees. Many people derive a big part of their identity from their work. What is the higher purpose? Why am I doing this? “The Great Resignation” is an obvious example of many employees leaving an uninspiring culture driven by that outdated social contract.
- Skill building and alternative credentials. Johnny posed this question to the audience: Are you looking at job prospects through the lens of yesterday or tomorrow? He encouraged us to support workers’ health in mind, body, and spirit. To support inclusivity, show empathy, and nurture resilience.
Where Does HSI Fit In?
I really enjoy keynotes like this one. The kind where you can feel the energy and excitement in the room. Part of my purpose in attending is to better understand what the industry is talking about. What are the big concerns and challenges, and how can HSI help? I left the massive meeting hall feeling very proud of the work we do at HSI.
Our mission is to make the workplace and community safer and smarter. Our clients leverage our training to help keep their employees safe from workplace hazards, safe from discrimination, harassment, and bullying, safe from stress and burnout, and more. Our HSI customer success managers are currently working with clients to curate courses to support mental wellness, resilience, and stress management. Hopefully, this sets us up to be a thermostat!
- Mental Wellness Tips for Your Employees
- Improve Employee Social Awareness Through Workplace Empathy
- How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed at Work: Understand Stress and Burnout