SHRM conference review: HRMATT takes Chicago!

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Cavelle Joseph-St Omer

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SHRM Delegates

The Annual SHRM Conference and Exposition is one of the world’s largest gatherings of HR and business professionals from almost every industry and background. It is an excellent way of learning all the latest information on all things HR and provides attendees with an opportunity to get solutions for different issues. It is essentially the perfect opportunity to network and make contacts with people from different industries and top organisations, including the leadership of SHRM.

At HRMATT, we recognise that attending conferences is essential to the professional standards within our industry, and we encourage our members and stakeholders alike to stay abreast of the latest trends and best practices. The SHRM Annual Conference and Expo 2024 (SHRM24) held in Chicago, was a remarkable experience for members of our T&T delegation. Immersed in a world of HR innovation, SHRM24 opened its doors to 26,000 HR professionals from around the globe, all eager to connect, learn, and grow.

SHRM24 Opening General Session with Al Roker focused on reflections on careers, civility and resilience.
The McCormick Convention Center buzzed with excitement as Al Roker’s interview supported SHRM’s ongoing effort to highlight the need for respectful, civil dialogue in the workplace as part of its “1 Million Civil Conversations” campaign. Civility in the workplace was highlighted throughout SHRM24 in concurrent sessions, a special “Cafe Civili-Tea” kiosk, and messaging during the general sessions. Roker stated: “We’re in a time [that] feels worse because of our social media information overload between the 24-hour news cycle and social platforms … It’s amplified. When it bleeds into the workplace and these are people you see every day, it’s crazy.”

Throughout the conference, we had the opportunity to attend workshops and presentations covering a wide range of topics, from AI in the workplace; talent acquisition: strategies to attract quality candidates; employee development: strategies to impact retention; organisational culture: how HR can maintain and shape culture; communication: strategies to build relationships with business leaders; wellness: how to cultivate health and happiness at work; employee benefits: how to explore employee benefits packages; employee engagement and leadership development; and diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Each session was led by industry experts who shared valuable insights and practical strategies. SHRM CEO Johnny C Taylor, Jr, kicked off day two. Taylor believes a ‘polycrisis’ is coming for HR. While delivering his opening speech, he laid out the major challenges he believes HR practitioners will face in the near future, including a skills’ deficit, an increasingly uncivil workforce and advancements in AI technology with the volatility it brings. He also pledged to advocate for “a human-centred approach to workplace AI,” and signalled SHRM’s collaboration on the issue with Washington, stating, “No matter who wins the election in November, SHRM is going to be in the room.”

With the advent and adoption of generative AI come new possibilities, challenges and concerns. How do we navigate this changing landscape in the world of work? And equally important, how do we bring our employees with us on the journey, knowing that humans are essential to successfully implementing AI in our organisations? These and much more are at the centre of our mind.

Networking and building connections with fellow HR professionals was one of the highlights of the SHRM Annual Conference. Additionally, during networking breaks and social events, HRMATT’s president and Caribbean Institute for Human Resource Management (CaIHRM) president, Cavelle Joseph-St Omer and Dr Thasana Thomas, CaIHRM Director (Jamaican by birth) but resident and representing HR in Turks and Caicos, engaged in meaningful conversations, meeting with Susan Ryan, president of the North American Human Resource Management Association (NAHRMA), and other members of the board of directors. A meeting was also held with SHRM’s President and CEO, Johnny C Taylor Jr and Emily M Dickens, SHRM’s Chief of Staff, Head of Government Affairs, and Corporate Secretary.

These connections and meetings would be invaluable in expanding Caribbean HR practice, developing Caribbean HR standards, expanding the Caribbean HR professional network and fostering future collaborations. There will be future announcements to be shared as a direct consequence of these meetings. The conference provided ample opportunities for HRMATT professionals to interact with vendors and solution providers. With local organisations like the North Central Regional Health Authority, National Library and Information System Authority, Cargo Consolidator’s Agency Limited, Unit Trust Corporation, The National Insurance Board of Trinidad and Tobago, The Power Generation Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited and the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago investing in the development of their people.

These practitioners had conversations with exhibitors to shed light on innovative HR technologies, tools, and services designed to streamline HR processes, improve employee experiences, and drive organisational success. These interactions were instrumental in discovering new solutions and exploring potential partnerships. Attending the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo 2024 was an unforgettable journey for our delegation. It enriched our professional knowledge and provided a platform to connect with industry leaders. The conference reaffirmed HRMATT’s commitment to continuous learning and highlighted the importance of staying at the forefront of HR innovation. We all returned with fresh ideas, insights, and contacts, ready to implement positive changes and drive success. We eagerly anticipate future conferences and the opportunities they present to evolve the HR profession in Trinidad and Tobago.

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