If you have been to many HR conferences, you are probably jaded by the tall claims made by them. When SHRM India announced its Annual Conference 2018, the claims ran similar. Then a few weeks later, we got a look at the speaker list and I could not contain my excitement. Yet, the skeptic in me kept whispering – there are many a slip between the cup and the lip. However, now that the conference is done, after two days of learning and revelry I can say with absolute confidence that SHRM India kept every promise they made. It was truly the best and biggest HR conference in town.
I will end up writing a novella if I were to summarize all the sessions I enjoyed but I will give you a snippet of my top three. My favorite session was the big debate on “The Much Hyped Continuous Performance Management”. There couldn’t be a more apt title to the never-ending discussion around the performance management craze. The debate had representatives from non-HR leaders on one side and HR on the other. It was an apt representation of the fissures that exist between the two sides. It began with the opposition quoting – ‘Every time we do a performance review, I lose 25% of my people, I am not sure how many I’ll end up losing if you do it on a continuous basis.’ They went on to ask extremely difficult questions – asking for instances where continuous reviews have worked successfully and when they say continuous, just how ‘continuous’ are they talking about? How do they plan to implement it? HR in turn quoted repeatedly the lack of support and understanding by the business. It ended by one HR leader saying – performance appraisal is too complicated for us to handle. If there was only one session that you attended this conference, I hope this was the one. It helped that Pankaj Bansal, who without doubt is the best I’ve ever come across, moderated the debate.
My 2nd favorite was the discussion between Kapil Sibal and Shoma Chaudhury on Kapil’s new book. The talk was more about politics than HR but evoked great emotion from the audience. I appreciate the fact that SHRM gave us an opportunity to go beyond HR and discuss something that is important to the nation. Could we have had a member of the other party to make the discussion balanced? Of course, yes. Is it easy? Hell, no! It was an absolute pleasure listening to the three-way discussion between Kapil Sibal, Shoma and the audience. Definitely, an experience worth having. It was no surprise that the hall was teeming with people.
There are many sessions that fought for the third place but I must hand it to the keynote session by Marc Effron. The talk made some very pertinent points. So much so that I ended up taking a picture of each slide and posting them on Twitter. I was overjoyed when at the end of the conference I left with a signed copy of the book. I will save space here and reserve more details for the book review I hope to do soon but, I will leave you with a few snippets. The session began by saying that high performers work hard. There is no getting around that. You need to combine smart work with hard work to get ahead. Set big goals, behave to perform, grow faster yourself, connect, maximize fit, fake it, commit your body and avoid distractions are the 8 golden steps to get to high performance. Watch out for the book review to know more.
The conference had innumerable unmissable sessions. The HR quiz, Sonam Wangchuk’s and Pavan Verma’s session deserve a special mention.
As much as I talk about the serious parts, I must mention the revelry. I took my own advice (for a change) and went against my natural instincts to go to sleep vs staying for the gala night. I learnt that true connections are made later in the evening once everyone is free from the sessions. I met more people in this conference than I have in any other I attended. I also had immense fun, stayed up almost all night and didn’t show any signs of fatigue until the conference finished – and that is the true sign of a brilliant conference.
A big thank you to the team at SHRM India for making magic happen. Two days went by a little too quick. If I could, I would rewind and go back again.
P.S. Head to Twitter and look for #SHRMIAC18 to know more. I covered here only an iota of everything that happened in the two days.