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Grateful! That is how I feel that I was able to attend the annual National SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) conference in Chicago last June. This was my first national conference, and with over 22,000 people in attendance I can tell you the information and enthusiasm you gain from attending keeps you on a high for days!

If I could pinpoint two words that I heard over and over again at the conference, they were BE KIND. Several speakers focused on the human connection that everyone needs to be happy at work, even as our businesses get more support from technology and outsourcing is common. A few speakers truly resonated with me and captured our philosophy at Purple Ink of being JoyPowered.

Karlyn Borysenko, MBA, PhD, an organizational psychologist, consultant, and executive coach had amazing personal stories of how changing your mindset and understanding the psychology behind humans can create a productive workforce in her session titled “The Psychology of Getting Things Done”. As the creator and owner of Zen Workplace, she helps individuals find greater happiness in their professional lives and helps organizations around the world to create positive employee experiences that drive productivity. Her approach is built in organizational and positive psychology and draws on mindfulness techniques. She tells a story of when she was struggling at work with coworkers and negativity and how she simply placed a sticky note on her computer that read, “Act with integrity, show compassion and empathy (even when others don’t) and be of service to people around you.” She said just reading this mantra over and over allowed her to control her success and not allow others to take that away. She also shared that, “if you find yourself getting heated, step back.” And that you, “influence perception by building relationships.” I LOVE this concept; how many times do we look at an org chart and think the person at the top is the most influential? Well they can be, but more than likely the most influential people in your organization are ones that are stepping out, building lasting relationships and being effective in their roles and beyond. Take time to be kind to yourself and others and your workplace will flourish.

Barbara Glanz, a member of the prestigous Speaker Hall of Fame, spoke on the “Simple Truths of Appreciation and Recognition: Low-Cost or No-Cost Ideas to Keep Employees Engaged.” She shared that 65% of American workers said they received NO appreciation at all last year! Barbara encouraged everyone in the room to think about all of the meetings that we attend. She challenged us to start each meeting with 3 minutes of good news. Regardless of the size or topic at the meeting, these 3 minutes can set the tone for a productive and effective session. At Purple Ink during each of our team meetings we are encouraged to share any celebrations (work or personal) with the group. It’s such a positive way for us to continue to learn about each other and congratulate ourselves for any big or small accomplishments! Barbara stressed that every interaction with another human makes an impact. You can choose to Discount it (negative interaction), make it a merely a Business Connection (neutral interaction) or you can create a Human Connection (positive interaction). How much more productive would your team be if everyone created human connections – trust goes up, teamwork increases, and the stress and negativity fade away.

Lastly, I cannot fail to mention the compelling presentation by Adam Grant and his interview session with Sheryl Sandberg. Adam is an organizational psychologist and professor at Wharton School of Business, and he studies how we can find motivation and meaning and lead more generous and creative lives. In conjunction with Sheryl, COO of Facebook and best-selling author, they have written a book titled, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. I just personally finished reading the book and would highly recommend it to anyone. Amazing insight on how to handle grief and obstacles head on. Sheryl lost her husband at the age of 47, and with the help of family and friends returned to her corporate job within 10 days. Sheryl challenged all of the HR representatives at the conference to return to work and make a case for increasing the number of days given for bereavement leave.

The Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 2016 Employee Benefits report, based on a poll of SHRM members, revealed that 81% of employers surveyed provide paid days for bereavement leave. On average, they give workers four days off following the death of a spouse or child; three days for a domestic partner, foster child, grandchild, parent, sibling, or grandparent; and one or two days for extended family members or a spouse’s relative, according to the SHRM 2016 Paid Leave in the Workplace report. Sheryl stresses that there is no way anyone is ready to return after 3 or 4 days, Facebook gave her 10 paid days and she wasn’t ready, but felt returning did help her in the long run begin to find breaks in her grief. She has since spearheaded Facebook to allow 20 paid days off for bereavement. Some people may take it all, but others may return earlier. It all goes back to being kind and truly appreciating your staff. If they didn’t have to worry about returning to work within days of making funeral arrangements, wouldn’t that create a sense of value and true loyalty?

In closing, all of the speakers at the conference were compelling and created the urgency that HR needs to extend this human compassion element and watch it spread amongst our workforces. Purple Ink runs on being JoyPowered and would be happy to engage in conversation with you on any or a number of ways to encourage your team to dig deep, create human connections, truly enjoy work, and BE KIND.

Laura North
Laura North
Laura is an HR Consultant at Purple Ink. She thrives for all levels of employees to understand and truly utilize their benefits to the fullest potential.

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