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Opening Session: Wisdom from Coach K and The Future of HR

    By Nancy Nelson

    Sunday’s general session started off with a bang. A surprise appearance from magician Penn Gillette of Penn & Teller fame made a surprise appearance to warm up the crowd. I barely recognized him – he’d lost 100 pounds since I last saw him on TV. Next up was Hank Jackson, SHRM’s CEO. He opened by declaring this “the decade of human capital in a brand new business world.” He also talked about SHRM’s recent promotion designed to raise the awareness of HR in the business community. If you’ve seen the recent SHRM advertisements on CNN or other channels, you know that the ad features three HR pros from various industries. A video clip was shown with each of them, all heads of HR for their organizations, telling their story. And as it turned out, they were all in the audience. It was nice to see the people behind the ad. Jackson went on to say, “Talent, not financial capital, is the key to growth and success in the 21st century. People are the power behind business; HR always knew this, but now our time has come.” To drive home the point, Jackson shared the example of HR pro Shara Gamble of Tampro Industries, who designed a comprehensive onboarding program for her company. As soon as an offer is accepted, new hires have access to an online system that explains forms in plain English and connects them to the culture and the company’s branding strategy, so they are ready to contribute on day one.

    As a basketball fan, I was looking forward to hearing what Mike Krzyzewski, head coach of the NCAA champion Duke University Blue Devils and the Team USA “Dream Team,” would have to say about leadership. He did not disappoint. He told the story about how he worked with NBA stars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the team to create a set of standards that everyone bought into, because they created it. “Rules don’t promote teamwork, standards do.” According to Coach K, it’s also important to use energy and emotion to create team results. He recalled the time a bench player on the team shouted “let’s go” at a time when Team USA was in serious trouble, and that was just the spark needed for them to catch fire. To conclude his talk, he encouraged all 15,400 to prepare for the four days ahead, ending with a rousing “LET’S GO!”

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