The SHRM Annual Conference of the Future: Interactive and Collaborative Learning


I hope you and everyone reading had a great independence day holiday.  I’m still trying to catch up on things after our recent trip to Atlanta to present at the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Annual Conference.  SHRM puts on quite a show for the 15-20,000 people who attend every year.  And, I know you are with me  in feeling very privileged that we’ve been included as presenters on the agenda the past two years.

This year’s show had a little different feel to it than last year and I left with a feeling that SHRM is taking some steps to evolve this, their flagship effort each year, towards the future.  So, as I read China Gorman’s post this morning where she elaborated on a recommendation for how to improve the event even further in the future, I was inspired to do the same.  The SHRM Annual Conference is a pretty amazing event considering the size and scope of the event and I think they do a good job of putting together a compelling conference.

But, it can be better.  It can be bigger.  And, most importantly, it can be designed for even greater impact as we try to create a bright future for the work of human resources.  So, I think we should string together a few posts that outline some of our ideas for how SHRM might improve this event into the future.  That way, if people like them, they can share, forward, comment to add more color and improve the ideas, etc.  After all, if you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem, right?

Here goes.

Suggestion #1

The way we create work and value within our organizations is changing dramatically.  One of the major shifts is in the amount of work we do collaboratively and through networks.  Top down, command and control management is becoming less and less relevant.  The lecture presentation style where an “expert” stands behind a podium and talks at the audience for 75 minutes or more is a relic of this old style of management.  People are increasingly less tolerant of or interested in being talked at.  In addition, we know definitively that adults don’t learn well when being talked at, but rather we learn more in experiential learning settings where we are participating and “doing.”

So, if part of the goal for this event is learning (and I think it is), I’d love to see SHRM experiment with the design of a few of their sessions during the main conference.    Granted, I know that the size of these sessions in terms of numbers of attendees will make this challenging, but it could start with a few sessions in smaller settings that are designed as interactive, workshop format sessions where the “presenter” is more of a facilitator guiding the group through an experience.  Hopefully, this would also include a lot of small group interaction and discussion so that people could also learn from one another and make some new connections.

Or, perhaps there could be a couple of open space sessions that don’t have any agenda, but rather are designed around the specific expert at the front of the room.  As an example, maybe one session could have members of the SHRM Board of Directors to engage the audience in discussion about the future of SHRM or of HR as a profession.  Perhaps another session could be about the role of social technology in the work of HR.  These sessions could be run as open forums or they could be designed in unconference style where the attendees define some subtopics they’d like to talk about and then break into smallish groups to have those discussions.

The goal: interactive, collaborative, and experiential design.

I’m not suggesting that these new sessions become the norm (at least not for a while) because I know that most people are still looking for the traditional content at this point and SHRM has to cater to the desires of the masses to sell tickets.  But, I think that providing some sessions with alternative and creative design would send a message of innovation and provide an option for those conference attendees who are searching for something new.  Plus, if SHRM can innovate and start breaking the mold a bit, that might embolden some of it’s members to do the same.

So, that’s my first recommendation.   What do you have in mind?


1 comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.