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Transformative Messages Take Center Stage at SHRM 2014

4 Inspiring Speakers, 4 Insightful Lessons that
HR Can Apply to Business |


The HR Agenda

Keynote speakers share stories of struggles and success that transformed them – and the world around them. | 基調講演者たちが彼らを変え、彼らの周りを変えた奮闘と成功のストーリーを語った。

Originally written in English

     It was Day 3 of the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition, and Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, David Novak was talking about how he loved going out to the bottling plants when he was COO of Pepsi Co. It was part of his regular schedule to meet with salesmen, merchandisers, people on the ground, and gain insights from them about the business. But one visit in St. Louis completely shook him up and helped shaped him into the kind of “people first” leader he is today. During that morning meeting, he asked people this question: “Who is the one person you feel had the biggest impact on the company’s success?”

      “Everyone started raving about Bob,” Novak says. “They described how he was the best merchandiser in the company. I looked down at the end of the table and Bob is crying… When I asked him what was wrong, he said, ‘I’ve been in this company for 47 years and I never knew people felt this way about me.’”

     It became a moment of transformation for Novak, who from then on made it his commitment to fully recognize people’s contributions and achievements. Today, he considers recognition as his biggest job – and he’s implemented a lot of fun, crazy and completely heartfelt ways to do it. He told the crowd of HR professionals: “From this day forward, do everything you can to make the Bobs of the world feel appreciated.”

     The story of Bob delivered a powerful message that resounded with a lot of conference attendees – the endless stream of tweets, blogs and articles showed how much impact it had on people, especially those in HR. Aside from providing a concrete lesson on people management, the story also showed how change – transformation – can be triggered by a single event, and it’s often one moment when you are presented with a difficult question, and you take the challenging task of facing it and finding an answer to it.

     While Novak’s speech was considered the most directly related to HR, fellow speakers Robin Roberts, Tom Friedman and Laura Bush also gave compelling messages on transformation that thoughtful HR leaders can apply to business:

     1. Dream big, focus small. ABC’s Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts’ story about battling cancer – twice – brought the audience to tears. But it also inspired them to move forward and fight, and not to be frightened by the seemingly insurmountable. Her advice is to take small steps until you arrive at your objective – something HR should remember as they face the increasing complexity of today’s global business landscape.

     2. Always be in “beta.” One of the biggest challenges for HR is to question whether their established practices and process are still relevant given how fast business is shifting every moment. According to Pulitzer award-winning author and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, the trick is to “always think of yourself as a work in progress – needing to learn, re-learn and re-engineer for your whole life.” To be in beta and in HR means always being open to feedback, having room for improvement and acquiring the courage to deliver positive change. Read this excellent article on continuous learning and improvement: “The Ripple Effect of Kaizen Culture,” The HR Agenda, July-Sep 2014

     3. Push outside of your comfort zone and make your voice heard. SHRM Board Chair Bette Francis wasn’t actually a keynote speaker but when she introduced Friedman, she gave a short, smart and sharp message that gave the audience something to think about. Talking about the long-standing question of how HR can finally get a seat at the executive table, Francis urged the audience to ”get out of the HR-centric work ethic [and] have a voice in the future of our business.” Her challenge to HR: “Maybe it’s time to stop thinking about changing the way the world sees us and our profession, and to start transforming ourselves inside the profession.”

      4. Treat people with dignity. When former first lady, Laura Bush was asked about her management philosophy, her answer seemed basic and old-fashioned at first: “Treat people with dignity. Treat people with respect.” But it actually targets a very current concern about today’s technology that allows people to make anonymous attacks that can make “things seem so uncivil in our society.” In the harried, hurried business world, remembering to go back to the basic HR principle of demonstrating how much you value people – treating them with dignity – can work wonders in transforming an organization.













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