SHRM 2023 Review

June 26, 2023


SHRM 2023 Highlights

The SHRM 2023 was a perfect opportunity for professionals to learn the latest HR technologies and leading expertise in human resources. This year’s conference brought together a host of talent from across the world.
If you’re wondering what you missed, here are some of the best themes and presentations from this year’s conference.

Quash Quiet Quitting: Reengaging Top Talent
This presentation by Brad Karsh focused on re-engaging top talent to quash quiet quitting. Quiet quitting refers to employees performing only their job requirements but not going above and beyond.

Karsh’s presentation covered why engaging your employees is so important as well as how to do so.

The Why

The majority of employees are less likely to leave an organization if they feel engaged. Karsh’s presentation cited that 70% of the variance in team engagement is driven solely by managers.

There are several factors that help employees stay engaged at work. From this presentation, the keys to employee engagement include:

  • Knowing what is expected of them at work
  • Being equipped with the right tools to execute their roles
  • Supervisors who care about employees as individuals
  • Having someone who encourages their development
  • An organization's mission or purpose that makes them feel that their job is important
  • Having a best friend at work
  • Opportunities for growth and learning
  • Receiving recognition and praise for good work

Leading by Example

Leaders have the most influence on their team's engagement levels as employees take cues from these individuals. So, asking for employee feedback, opinions, and ideas goes a long way in helping them feel engaged.

Karsh also outlined that the best way to lead by example is to give employees space to fail. Note that they are going to make mistakes, so don't sweat the small stuff and be quick to pick up the pieces after a mistake.

Retention Strategies

Retention strategies are essential for any company looking to retain their employees long-term. Karsh’s presentation highlighted four key retention strategies:

  • Make it personal: Capture the details, gather insights, and create joy.
  • Recognition/appreciation: Recognize the contributions of your employees.
  • Give them the star treatment: If you don't treat your employees like stars, someone else will. Give star employees responsibility, autonomy, visibility, and flexibility.
  • Have a stay interview: Conduct a stay interview to understand what's keeping your employees, if they've thought about leaving, and what you can do to improve their work.

Is It Pay? Fact-Based Reasons Employees Quit Plus Real Retention Solutions

Dick Finnegan is the CEO of the Finnegan Institute and C-Suite Analytics. He is the leading thinker on Stay Interviews, which have helped companies reduce employee turnover. His presentation provided an impressive array of data-driven insights into why employees quit and how to use retention solutions to keep them.

The Great Resignation

Finnegan's presentation highlighted research showing that the percentage of voluntary quitting has risen in the US post-recession.

Workplaces are also experiencing employee shortages due to the following:

  • Early retirements
  • COVID deaths
  • The rise of COVID-driven entrepreneurs
  • Lower birth rates
  • A young workforce that is less loyal
  • But is it pay that's causing the great resignation? Finnegan presented three studies to address this question:
  • Pew Research Center surveyed employees and found that the top reason why they leave is low pay (63%).
  • SHRM surveyed HR pros who said that pay was the top reason why employees leave (74%).
  • MIT analyzed 34 million online employee profiles to find out why they left their jobs. The top reason was toxic corporate culture. Pay was ranked the 16th reason why employees leave.

Approach to Employee Retention

While pay is one of the biggest reasons why employees leave, raising it may not be enough. Other nuances like building trust, improving toxic work culture, and embracing accountability play important roles in employee retention.

The Finnegan arrow of employee retention emphasizes the importance of dollars, goals, and forecasts in reducing the cost of turnover.

It also stresses the need for managers to have “stay interviews” with employees to get feedback about what’s going on in their workplace.

Goldilocks & the Three Bears: Attracting, Engaging, and Retaining

JoDee Curtis, founder of Purple Ink and author, discussed how to attract, engage, and retain employees.

Employees and candidates want to feel valued and have a sense of belonging within their company. They also want to be able to see the potential for growth and have some flexibility.

Attracting Talent

Curtis’s talk began by identifying two trends:

  • 41% of employees are resigning from roles
  • 36% of those resigning leave without having their next job in place

Companies experiencing these resignations can attract new talent through social media, job ads, career pages, branding, and niche networks.

Creating a positive candidate experience matters a lot in the recruitment process. It attracts qualified candidates, quality referrals, and increases positive reviews.

Curtis recommended the following tips for enhancing the candidate experience:

  • Clear timelines and expectations
  • Good communication
  • Effective onboarding processes
  • Humanizing your brand
  • Involving a hiring manager
  • Engaging

Keeping employees engaged has a positive effect on employee retention. Curtis emphasized that regularly communicating employees' roles in your mission, vision, and values keeps them engaged.

She also discussed common engagement trends, including flexibility, inclusion, empathy, wellness, career growth, and tech-enabled tools.

Some of the tips she shared for building engagement for managers include:

  • Earning trust
  • Communicating regularly
  • Showing appreciation
  • Learning employee's passions, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Creating developmental opportunities


Curtis explained that retention reduces the cost of turnover and prevents interruption of services and loss of knowledge. To stop employees from leaving, you need to have a plan to make them stay.

She recommended compensation, growth, environment, relationships, and support as the key components for a successful retention strategy.

Leading With Heart: An Empathetic and Purposeful Approach to Leading

The work environment shift in 2020 caused a lot of social and political turbulence. It also gave rise to work-life fusion and hybrid work models.

Catherine Wragg's presentation began by recognizing that there's a shift in the post-COVID leadership environment. Most organizations are adopting a leadership approach that's more personal and people-oriented.

The Role of Empathy in Leadership

From Wragg's presentation, the role of empathy in leadership cannot be downplayed. Employing an empathetic approach in leading your organization enables you to identify issues before they become problems. It also helps you create a safe working environment, foster cohesion and trust, and ultimately increase employee engagement.

Wragg's presentation breaks down empathy into three layers that every successful leader in today's workplace must have:

  • Cognitive: This layer is logical and is all about knowing other people's feelings and what they're thinking.
  • Emotional: Feeling other people's emotions as if they were your own.
  • Compassionate: Feeling other people's emotions as if they're contagious and doing something to help.

Key Characteristics of an Empathetic Leader

Some of the key characteristics of an empathetic leader include:

  • Authenticity
  • Community focus
  • Effective communication
  • Motivation
  • Compassion
  • High level of awareness
  • Barriers to Empathy
  • A key takeaway from Wragg's presentation is that only 40% of leaders are empathetic. While 87% of US workers believe that empathy results in better leadership, 52% feel that corporate attempts at empathy are inauthentic.

Wragg notes the following barriers to empathy for leaders:

  • Skill: You may lack the skills to understand and connect with your team members
  • Mindset: Failure to understand why you are responsible for the well-being of your employees
  • Capacity: Feeling like you don't have the time and energy to build relationships and discuss non-work issues with employees

Developing Empathy as a Leader

This presentation provided the following remedies for developing empathy as a leader:

  • Give your full attention
  • Have vulnerable conversations
  • Create a culture of open communication
  • Reprioritize work streams to create capacity for empathy
  • Listen to other people's perspectives

The Culture Trio: Empathy, Learning, and Belonging

The SHRM IE&D Council's presentation by Mary Cheddie focused on empathy, coupled with learning and belonging, in creating workplaces that thrive.

The presentation highlighted that unfair treatment due to demographic factors is quite rare and companies can improve their bottom line through diversity.

  • Teams with high gender diversity are more profitable than their peers by 21%
  • Gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to notice higher financial returns
  • Collective decision-making with diverse teams outperforms individual decision-making 87% of the time

There is a direct link between empathy and inclusivity in workplaces. Empathy enables people to work together effectively and cooperatively with others.

Companies can integrate empathy in the workplace by:

  • Leading by example
  • Empowering the kind leaders
  • Listening to the quiet few
  • Establishing company norms

Cheddie also emphasizes the importance of being open to being vulnerable, learning from others, and creating a culture of belonging.

How to Retain Young Talent

Lauren Priori, the owner of L. Priori Jewelry, made her presentation on retaining young talent. While other companies are experiencing massive resignations from millennial and Gen Z workers, Priori’s business has exceptionally low turnover from the same groups.

So what does she do differently? In her presentation, Priori proposed fitting the job to the individual as opposed to the other way around. To do this, you need to use hiring tools such as interview questions, personality tests, and reference checks to ensure you are hiring the right people for the job.

Her presentation further explored poor performance vs. a poor fit. It discussed how giving ownership to young employees, allowing them to use their brains, training them, and then letting them self-manage makes them feel valued and gives them a sense of accomplishment.

Finally, Priori gave advice on the importance of creating a company culture that is inclusive, respectful, and diverse. In addition, it’s also key to offer growth opportunities tailored to an individual’s ability and passion.

Adult Bullying in the Workplace and the Impacts on Mental Health

This presentation commenced with definitions of mental health and bullying.

The presenter, Raushwna Price, explored three types of bullies:

  • Deceiver: Intentionally holds back information to control others.
  • Hoarder: Keeps you close so that no one experiences your gifts and talents.
  • Minimizer: Gets happiness from making you feel small.

So what do you do to help employees who have adult bullies at work? Raushawna proposes these actions:

  • Recognize this is conflict. Bullying is a conflict in which people are expressing different needs and desires.
  • Empower leaders. Empower the leaders in your organization to create safe and open team cultures. They can do this by taking each complaint seriously, addressing problems with individuals, and seeking third-party support.
  • Empower everyone to take action. Provide a safe place for employees to reflect, voice their concerns, and connect.
  • Deal with unresolved conflict. For those who have experienced bullying, resolving conflicts and exploring the beliefs and connections related to your experiences is key.

Building a Highly Desirable Workplace for 2023 and Beyond

This talk by Jordan Katz and Benjamin Granger explored global EX trends, remote and hybrid work, the future of work, and EX drivers of CX.

It highlighted that burnout rates are high, with inefficient processes fueling this issue. As such, it’s important to build a workplace that meets employee needs.

To do so, Katz and Granger offered the following practical tips:

  • Recruiting: Address pay hurdles early and then address other critical factors.
  • Burnout/well-being: Look out for inefficiencies that might put people at risk and offer resources to help manage stress.
  • Work-life integration: Create clear norms around workplace flexibility and time off.
  • Flexibility: Have people come to the office with a purpose.

The best strategies for building a highly desirable workplace are to think and work differently. Listening to people, focusing on best principles instead of best practices, hiring talent with the right soft skills, and opening up your peripheral vision will transform your workplace into a highly desirable one.

Create a Cutting-Edge Culture

This talk by Tracy Stock emphasized the importance of creating a cutting-edge culture that keeps employees energized, empowered, and engaged.

She discussed how to:

  • Attract the best talent
  • Foster engagement and productivity
  • Appreciate and celebrate positive behaviors

Stock identified the important elements of a cutting-edge culture: flexibility, competitive pay, attracting quality talent, an innovative mindset, a fun workplace, perks, and real-time feedback.

She also explored the role of higher compensation, opportunities for growth, and better work-life balance in reducing turnover.

Further, she recommended that leaders redefine the meaning of work, enhance employee experience, and show they care to build a strong and lasting culture.


These were just a few of the many empowering presentations from SHRM 2023. The conference treated HR leaders to a pool of knowledge from different fields, including the ever-changing world of leadership development and team building.

With this knowledge, we can work to embrace change, drive innovation, and create better working environments.

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