2011 SHRM Conference Speakers

SHRM 2011: How to Improve Your Company Culture

At the SHRM 2011 national conference in Las Vegas, two speakers, Arianna Huffington and Sir Richard Branson, approached the issue of company culture from two different angles. Both of which ask employers to raise their games.

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Arianna Huffington on Work-Life Balance

Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, talked about her experience with the recent merger of her website, The Huffington Post, with AOL. She talked about the challenges and opportunities that the merger provided.

She had especially interesting things to say about work-life balance and her desire to maintain Huffington’s healthy approach to it at the new, larger company. We, as HR professionals, likely know the challenge of honoring cultural elements and preserving them as we go through a major merger or acquisition.

Ms. Huffington spoke about her interest in working hard and resting hard. She talked about the importance of nap rooms at her company and how it was perfectly acceptable for people to sneak away and take a 15 or 20-minute nap so they could refresh and come back to work re-engaged with the workplace.

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She must have known that she was speaking to a room full of HR people because she said, “You know, we do have to make sure that only one person is going into the nap room at a time.” She acknowledged that most of we HR professionals, when we start thinking about nap rooms, think of all the horrible things that could happen. But, she still encouraged the sense of balance.

Ms Huffington also told another funny story about how her company participated in a Bring-Your-Child to-Work Day. She told all of the children that came in, “If your mom or dad ever tell you that they are too tired to play with you, I want you to tell them to get more sleep.” And, she said something about how we don’t get enough sleep and part of that is because we have our cell phones right next to us and we’re always plugged in and we never have that down time.

Her big challenge to the group was: don’t sleep with your cell phone next to the bed. It really made me think because, like many of you, that’s my comfort spot. I want that cell phone right next to me. She said it’s not the most effective way to rest and be recharged for your work. I thought that was really good reminder for all of us in terms of that personal, work-life balance.

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Sir Richard Branson on Higher Purpose

Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Group, was the kickoff speaker for the SHRM national conference. He spent a lot of time talking about businesses and their responsibility to a higher purpose.

Sir Branson believes that we need to infuse a sense of purpose into our companies and our business culture. We cannot succeed if we are only in business to make money. He pointed out that if you focus too much on just making money you’ll get going down a wrong path. And, we’ve certainly seen that to be the case with companies like WorldCom or Enron.

He believes that each company can have a purpose that it serves, even if their goal is to make money. It’s important to understand how you provide value to the world and what you do, in terms of other programs and services, to be a responsible party.


Stacey Carroll, CCP, SPHR
Director of Professional Services and Education
PayScale, Inc.

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