#HRUnite! Conference 2022: Key Take Aways from an #HRAwesome Event!

Me at the HRUnite! 2022 Conference in Frankenmuth, MI. I’m excited I found it!

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” – Chinese Proverb

There are those rare events that reinvigorate you, inspire you, help you remember why you do what you do. This is the point of “conferencing!” It is meant to help attendees learn new things while helping them recharge their batteries.

Remember, motivation doesn’t last. But neither does bathing, and it is recommended to do it often! 😊 So, conference going, learning, motivating events should be our norms! If we don’t nurture our growth, we stop growing and eventually whither.

I recently attended #HRUnite! Conference 2022 in Frankenmuth, Michigan. For those unfamiliar with HRUnite!, it is the adventure of Tina-Marie Wohlfield (who has quickly become one of my favorite people in the HR Community, nay, favorite people I know). From the website:

HRUnite! brings together HR professionals at all levels and specialties to provide opportunities to connect and build powerful professional relationships with others in the #HRcommunity. It is an outlet for those trying to enter the profession, advance their careers and surround themselves in a judgement free and supportive community with a purpose to share knowledge, resources, ideas and professional development opportunities in a non-sales solicitation environment.

I have admired HRUnite! from afar the last few years, and I was thrilled to join their conference live and in person. I got to hang out with longtime friends, friends I haven’t seen in real life for years, and new friends I have yet to meet in real life!

Writers take liberties from time to time, but this is not hyperbole – This was one of the best conferences I have ever been to! It was simple, which made the learning much more impactful. It was intimate, which made for better networking. Overall, I highly recommend HRUnite! Conference for any HR pro willing and able (Conference Committee deliberately caps attendance to maintain intimacy) to attend.

In fact, I am incredibly excited to announce I was asked to be a speaker at HRUnite! 2023 July 12-13, 2023! What topic will I speak about? I have a while to decide, but you know it will be, as Tina-Marie would say, #HRAwesome!

Until 2023, however, here are my top key takeaways from the HRUnite! Conference 2022.

  • Always remember that FMLA/ADA overlaps. Any seasoned HR pro knows that just because FMLA ends doesn’t mean that it’s time to terminate the employee. ADA likely kicks in! And let me say, any HR professional worth their weight in gold knows it’s not about terminating and moving on from employees anyway! It’s about HELPING them, SUPPORTING them! But that’s an aside. James Reid reminded attendees that if it is not an undue hardship, additional leave of absence following FMLA exhaustion can be a reasonable accommodation under ADA. What is reasonable amount of time? Well, in classic lawyer speak, it depends. But this reminder is always important to keep top of mind.
  • Leave people better than when you found them. This prompt from Terry Bean can never be said enough. It is a reminder that leadership is for the follower, not the leader. How you do that is through better questions! Terry reminded us of the Toyota Five Why technique.  This is a simple but powerful tool for getting through the symptoms of a problem to reveal its underlying causes, so that one can deal with it once and for all. A lot like an inquisitive toddler, continually asking why is a simple approach to finding the root cause and then addressing it. See below chart for an example. When coupled with active listening, leaders can craft ways to treat people well, listen to them, show them they care and are valued, and hopefully leave them in a better place.
  • HR needs to be on a Performance Improvement Plan. Dear HR, according to Tina-Marie, you’re now on a PIP. Please sign the form after adding any commentary of your own. We will meet again in 30-60-90 days to ensure you meet the plan! Here’s your PIP:
  1. Create processes that correct and support your people.
  2. Make every interaction with your stakeholders incredible regardless how small.
  4. Avoid complacency – inaction costs more than action.
  5. Hold HR to the same standards you hold other leaders/departments.
  6. Acknowledge opportunities, and learn from failure.
  7. Embrace your #HRCommunity (support and network).
  • What’s new on LinkedIn in 2022. Anyone who knows me knows I am a HUGE social media proponent for ALL HR folks! I give talks on the subject! There is so much untapped potential for HR professionals on social media – LinkedIn in particular. Brenda Meller gave an awesome presentation on how HR pros can use LinkedIn as a platform to expand networks, get their name out there, and have fun! For 2022, she discussed that LinkedIn had a lot of new features including profile videos, name pronunciation, gender pronouns, newsletter links, and so much more. I purchased her book Social Media Pie and I cannot wait to dive in and learn more from her!
  • Agile doesn’t mean HR needs to be all things to all people. Dr. Melanie Peacock is one of the most authentically wonderful people I have ever met. She is genuine, positive, warm, funny, and encouraging! She gave a talk about change management for HR professionals, which she wrote a book about. Agility and change go hand in hand. To be agile, we need to not fight against the current of change. To be agile is to be like water. Change is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so. You can’t deny that we’ve seen A LOT of change these past few years, and it’s not stopping. We are all likely going through some sort of change fatigue. Even those who embrace change need some stability from time to time. The human mind evolved to rely on stability. But to be leaders, HR needs to accept changes are always going to occur, and we need to embrace helping our employees through the journey! This doesn’t mean HR needs to be all things to all folks. It means we help people where they are through vision, creating dissatisfaction with the status quo, and encouraging first steps. Remember, you can lead an employee to the water fountain, but you can’t make them drink. Do your part. That’s what matters!
  • It is NOT hard finding people. It IS hard convincing them to join your company! Tim Sackett is a great follow for those in the recruiting and talent acquisition space. His years of experience and innovation are meaningful. I always try to listen to what Tim Sackett is talking about. His talk at HRUnite! did not disappoint. His point is well taken that there is a lot of talent out there, but it is increasingly hard to convince them to join a crappy company for crappy pay to work with a crappy hiring manager. I can’t say I disagree with him. It’s about managing the disease, not the symptoms. Can’t hire folks? Start with the “why” – like Terry advised – with what’s wrong with your company, and not what’s wrong with the talent.
  • Before you ask how DEI shows up at work, ask how it shows up in your life. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful folks over the years. At every conference, there is always at least one person who shocks me at how awesome they are. Niki Ramirez was that person for me at HRUnite! Her genuine warmth and care was evident the moment she greeted you. It was even more evident in her conference presentation. You could easily tell how much she cared about her fellow human beings, and she went out of her way to provide personal stories to break down walls of vulnerability to make her point. Ultimately, I learned so much from her in such a short amount of time. For one, she reacquainted me with the idea of “discretionary effort,” or the effort one reserves for those they care about. This is a great concept for work. We don’t have to like one another at work, but it does make it easier to work with other people when you do! Ultimately, though, some people don’t deserve respect, but we must always act civilly to others. I agree. And lastly, she mentioned that for many disadvantaged communities, knowing how to show up to a job interview isn’t something they learn. She mentioned that when she is scheduling an interview, she sends candidates an email with a note saying “if you wish to prepare, please review some of these questions which may ne asked.” I thought that is a game changing tip that can help lessen the gap between those who know and those who never had the opportunity to know.
  • HR, be unapologetic! One of the best for last. Dr. Lee Meadows closed the conference with his slide-less presentation. It was old school, and I loved it! His message was one EVERY HR PRO needs to hear. He wants us all to know that sharpening our swords through the daily grind makes us all much better wielders of the steel! HR issues – issue with an “s” – make us better! And, others need to recognize this! He wants HR pros to have a mantra of being unapologetic about our value as professionals (and people). Remember, YOU KNOW HR! You know what you’re talking about! Do not accept being undervalued, being under-recognized! No more apologies. Other leaders in the organization need to know what WE KNOW, and we know people! I am doing Dr. Meadows a disservice by typing this here, as I cannot appropriately or adequately state how his delivery added to his message. It was powerful, inspiring. It made me want to stand up and proclaim loudly: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” Thank you, Dr. Meadows. Your talk has reminded me – I know my shit. I’ll make sure I speak up to let others know.

Ultimately, HRUnite! did what it was supposed to do – it refilled my cup! I’m reenergized in a way I haven’t been in a while. The love, positivity, and kind no-nonsense talks were infectious. I’m hooked again on our profession. It was the message I needed to hear. Thank you, Tina-Marie, the Conference Committee, and all HRUnite! speakers.

Next year I humbly get to take the stage… 😊 July 12-13, 2022… see you then, but until then, remain #HRAwesome!

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved.

Published by Paul LaLonde

Husband. Father. Passionate about HR, helping people, and doing the right thing. Also, heavy metal, craft beer, and general nerd things! #SHRM19Blogger. Find me on Twitter at @HRPaul49 and LinkedIn. Thoughts, views and opinions on this site are solely my own and do not represent those of my employer or any other entity ​with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

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