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Doing More With Less: 4 Things We Learned at the 2023 HR Superstars Summit

Nicole Klemp

On March 23rd, over a thousand HR leaders from all over the world joined live for 15Five’s HR Superstars 2023 Summit. The virtual half-day event gathers strategic people leaders to connect and learn about a range of topics relevant in HR today, like how to support and develop great managers, how to find balance and avoid burnout, and how to maximize resources to drive bigger impact.

The 3-hour event was jam-packed with insights, tips, and advice from some of today’s leading HR practitioners. There was so much actionable goodness, in fact, that it would be impossible to recap all the takeaways in a single blog post. Fortunately, you can now register to watch the entire event on demand. To give you a quick sneak peek, we managed to narrow it down to four notable nuggets from this year’s brilliant presenters. 

1. The #1 HR priority in 2023 is leader and manager effectiveness

The summit kicked off with a keynote from Jon Greenawalt, SVP & GM of Transform & Services at 15Five. Jon discussed what modern management looks like today and what employees expect from their managers. 

In a recent report, Gartner shared that the top priority for HR leaders in 2023 is leader and manager effectiveness. According to Jon, that’s because organizations today need a new type of leader. He said the modern manager leverages contemporary people science to foster high-performing and highly engaged teams. 

Recent research from 15Five further confirms the need for manager development. We surveyed 1,000 managers and 1,000 employees across the U.S. and found that 63% are not impressed with their manager’s ability to lead. To add insult to injury, 40% of employees also said they could do a better job than their manager (ouch!).

Jon noted that it’s very difficult to scale front-line manager effectiveness—but it is possible. It requires integrating learning and growth opportunities that are continuous, experiential, and built into the manager’s day-to-day work.

Interested in custom learning and coaching for your leaders and managers? Check out Transform from 15Five >

2. It’s okay for people leaders to say NO to initiatives that don’t move the business forward

In an honest and insightful panel session, four bonafide HR superstars gathered to discuss what they’re saying no (and yes!) to this year. The panel was moderated by Zara Chaudry, Global DEIB Impact Manager at PowerToFly, and included Kirsti Grant, VP of People Experience at Auror; Scott Morgan, Sr. Director of People Growth at Pendo; and Chaunel Johnson, Executive Advisor for 15Five.

The group discussed how they prioritize work and team initiatives today and how they maximize their resources—even when those resources are limited. As Chaunel shared, it’s important to stay focused on efforts to improve critical outcomes like manager effectiveness, employee engagement, or talent mobility. She believes “going back to basics” is vital to building a strong foundation, so prioritizing fundamental HR practices like upskilling, onboarding, and career development are key.

The panelists made it clear that saying no to things that don’t fall into those fundamental buckets is important for freeing up time and resources for what matters. For example, Kirsti shared that her team is saying no to new office space and instead focusing on redesigning their current space for hybrid work. 

What’s one thing these leaders are saying yes to in 2023? Investment in technology. The panelists all agreed that having the right tools in place to solidify and improve foundational HR programs is essential to building high-performing teams.

3. Balance and self-care are critical to the health and wellness of HR leaders today

In a fun summit surprise, attendees were treated to a live recording of the HR Superstars Podcast, hosted by Adam Weber, SVP of Community at 15Five. Adam was joined by the Head of People Ops and Diversity for Tastemade, Tarveen Forrester, who came on to discuss her very real and harrowing experience with workplace stress.

During the pandemic, Tarveen was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. “I was absorbing so much stress and trying to take on all of the things happening in the world and in our organization,” she said. “I didn’t know much about autoimmune diseases at the time, but the disease that I have is totally stress-induced. That was a tipping point for me. I’m still relatively young, and I’m like, ‘this is not okay.’ I had to start thinking about boundaries and how I prioritize myself.”

Tarveen believes the workplace stress many HR leaders experience can be attributed in large part to the emotional weight they have to absorb and carry on behalf of others. “As relationship builders and empaths, HR leaders put everyone else before themselves,” she said.

Learning to navigate difficult situations and championing self-care for employees—and themselves—is critical for HR leaders. Tarveen recommends being present with yourself and creating boundaries that allow you ample time to detach from work when needed. 

Have a burning HR question you’d like to hear featured live on the HR SuperStars podcast? Send Adam a voicemail and have your question considered.

4. It’s time to normalize making mistakes (HR leaders are people too!) 

To round out the day of learning, another incredible panel of HR leaders took the virtual summit stage. Cheri Armour, Community Coordinator for 15Five, was joined by Shireen El-Maissi, Manager of People Relations & Talent Acquisition at Blueboard; Aisha Blackwell, Director of HR for Young Community Developers; and Jennie Yang, VP of People and Culture at 15Five, to discuss how they find balance and manage burnout. 

A recent study found that 98% of HR professionals today report being burned out, which was unsurprising to the panel. They all admit to feeling high levels of stress, particularly during and since the pandemic. Balancing the proactive work HR leaders want to do with the reactive work constantly invading their day-to-day is a unique challenge. 

As Shireen shared, recognizing and addressing stress and burnout when they creep in is critical. “The opposite of burnout is fully engaged, so when I’m not feeling motivated or not wanting to do something, I recognize that burnout is showing up for me.”

The panel also discussed how giving themselves—and others—permission to make mistakes in a psychologically-safe environment can reduce some of the stress HR leaders experience. When mistakes are made, they should be seen as opportunities to learn and grow rather than things to stress out about or ruminate on.  

Today’s people leaders have a lot to carry, both professionally and psychologically, so it’s no surprise that self-care was such a recurrent theme at this year’s summit. As Jennie reminded attendees, “We hold the emotional container for our colleagues, leadership teams, and employees, and that can weigh on us. We need space to process our own emotions as well.”

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