The following information is from the completed 2020 event. Please check back in the spring for details on next year.

Our staff will be working remotely for the next few weeks to promote the health and safety of our community. Please visit the Contact Us page or email to get in touch. 

Virtual + Strategic HR: Oct 21-22 & 28, 2020

All times listed on the schedule are Eastern Standard Time.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

8:00 am - 8:15 am
Wellness Wake Up!

Join conference wellness guru Beth Bielat for this morning refresher.


8:15 am - 8:30 am
Call to Action!

Pour yourself a cup of coffee. Then join the conference hosts as they set up the goals for today and how the sessions will make a difference in the lives of your employees and your neighboring communities.

8:30 am - 9:30 am
KEYNOTE | “Uncharted” Territory

For an Infinitely Surprising World

What’s it all about? In a smashing return from across the pond,” Margaret Heffernan joins us with a provocative look at the future based on her just-released book – Uncharted Margaret challenges us to break our addiction to prediction, employing the counterintuitive thinking demonstrated in her other awardwinning books and TedTalks (that now measure more than 11,000,000 views). There’s much at stake in HR and other institutions, and she will help us grasp the level of complexity we face, offering human solutions to that complexityIn the process, she calls into question our assumptions about efficiency, warning that too much efficiency undermines our ability to adapt and respond. And, that for all its value, technology should never be allowed to asset strip our collaborative and decision-making processes. History is her final targetThe myriad ways we need to build for the long-term often go unattended as we overweight the short-term predicted future and lessons from the past. Rome wasn’t built in a daybut for all its chaos and challenges, no one argues that it isn’t one of the great cities of the world.   

Why you’ll want to participate in this session. 

  • Re-visit the business and human resource platforms that overvalue efficiency at the expense of long-term, organizational stability and creative energy. 
  • Understand the limits of predictability and technology, and how you can enhance a workplace culture of experimentation and curiosity as an HR and business problem solver. 
  • Build alliances and relationships within and outside your organization as an antidote to algorithmic thinking, and understand how this business and personal broker role can be the sources for overcoming the limitations of predictability, efficiency, and technology. 

Approved for SHRM Credit and HRCI Business Credit.

Program Faculty: Margaret Heffernan

9:45 am - 10:45 am
MEGASESSION | Our Feelings Don’t Do Arithmetic Very Well

The prerequisites for building effective HR data platforms.

What’s it all about? A recent New York Times article triggered this intriguing MegaSessionIt was the story of how epidemiologists, psychologists, and others are studying the Coronavirus, numbers, fear, and risk management. The overlay to our work becomes apparent when we consider how, in recent years, HR has been asked to become data experts and business partners while at the same time retaining that people-centric core of our work. Just how do you do that with knowledge and integrity? We’ve invited Kenji SaitoMD, JD, (a doctor and lawyer with an entrepreneurial and sociologist’s spirit) to decipher these potentially contradictory trajectories in our work. Following a short, but intriguing, anatomy lesson of the brain’s two sides and how we process numbers vs. words, we’ll jump into exercises that position us to better determine the data we need, gather it with accuracy, and employ it with integrity.  

Why you’ll want to participate in this session. 

  • Discover how Hcan think like scientists in the decision-making process, with commentary from the worlds of biology, psychology, and logic. 
  • Explore the best use of data and how to apply it to an appropriate risk management strategy. 
  • Discuss the ethical challenges presented in people analytics and how to employ data with integrity. 
  • Learn how HR can lead an organization’s efforts to bridge the scientific and intellectual gaps between good and bad data, between swimming in too much information and insufficient evidence to make informed decisions. 

Approved for SHRM Credit and HRCI Business (HR) Credit. 

Program Faculty: Kenji Saito, MD

9:45 am - 10:45 am
FORUM | Is 55 the New 30?

A multi-dimensional look at careers, retirement, and purpose

What’s it all about? When it comes to succession planning, the generational focus too often is viewed in stark, simplistic terms. Meaning, there’s a belief that a Baby Boomer cluster of leaders is clutching power, harboring expertise, and preventing successive generations from bringing their aspirations to the table. In truth, many baby boomers as well as those earlier in their career are trying to define their purpose and next chapter, and this group will likely increase in the decade ahead, particularly in the aftermath of this world turned upside down. We’ve invited a trio of HR thinkers to dispel some of this mythology – Deb Hicks, former Chief People & Culture Officer at Dana Farber in Boston and founder of Deb Hicks & Associates LLC; Ron Schneider, a labor-management attorney at Bernstein Shur in Portland, and Tom Wilson, Founder and Principal, The Wilson Group, and author of  “Next Stage: In Retirement, Create the Life You Want.”

The idea for this workshop started with an idea in Jonathan Rauch’s book, “The Happiness Curve,” which discusses changes aligned to age and showing evidence of a U-shaped curve and upward trend. Since then there have been an explosion of articles and books about ‘the new retirement” and the next chapters of professional and personal opportunities.

What can/should employers put in place to understand these trends and align them with the organization’s vision and goals? This session promises to be an engaging look at the human dynamic and how we think about talent, ability, the aging process, and new work paradigms. These trends point to new considerations for succession planning, workforce engagement initiatives, continuity, and strategic planning.

Why you’ll want to participate in this session.

  • Discuss a shift away from traditional models to one that better considers how the generations view leadership, power, and the creative use of their talents.
  • Position yourself to lead a more human, life-based talent planning platform, understanding the resources required – both financial and developmental.
  • Become a strategic thinker about the aging process and how it impacts the direction of your talent strategy.
  • Then consider your own journey now and in the future.

Approved for SHRM Credit and HRCI General (HR) Credit.

Program Faculty: Deb Hicks, Ron Schneider, Tom Wilson

11:00 am - 12:00 pm
On the Road to Chicago

Your HR niche is the magic of a story.

What’s it all about? Studs Terkel, Chicago author, Pulitzer Prize winner, broadcaster, and advocate for the “common” American spoke to us in a simple, yet beautiful prose, holding that work “is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.” It’s a difficult time in America and certainly for all of us serving in human resources. Maybe our HR niche and calling rests in a renewed recognition of the people who work at our sides, the values of our organizations, and the way we communicate that through stories. Joining us from Chicago are Elena Valentine, an HR advocate and film creator at Skill Scout, James Ellis Global Employer Brand Manager at Roku and creator of The Talent Cast, and Amber Kennelly, Chief Human Resources Officer at HUB International. Together they share through film, prose, and stories, how we bring out the best in ourselves, our people, and our communities in this moment.

Why you’ll want to participate in this session.

  • Discover the magic of a great workplace story, how to conceptualize, craft, and deliver that product in a way that aligns with your organization’s purpose and brand, and more important, your core ethics.
  • Consider how you apply artistry – through the written word, the spoken word, and the visual – to create impactful stories resonating with truth and emotion.
  • Understand how story-telling skills are essential for HR leaders who wish to contribute to business and brand and who wish to gain the ear of your internal and external communities.

Approved for SHRM Credit and HRCI Business.

Program Faculty: Amber Kennelly, Elena Valentine, James Ellis

12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
EXPO and Networking Break

Take this time to visit the virtual bookstore and EXPO booths, recharge, and check emails.

12:15 pm - 12:45 pm
Live Lunch Roundtable Sessions

Acadia Benefits will host a talk about keeping employees engaged virtually. Presented by Kate Malloy and Vicki Ferentz.

Cross Benefit Solutions & Zillion will host a discussion about how Zillion’s RestoreResilience program is helping companies and their employees maintain a healthy wellbeing by building the mental and physical resilience needed in challenging times. Presented by Mike Burton and Jody Dobrowski.

Hays will host a talk – Is Your Wellness Plan Healthy? Presented by Nick Karls.

HUB International will host a talk about doing the work: developing tactics to address unconscious bias. Presented by Mim Minichiello and Debbie Plager.

1:30 pm - 2:30 pm
KEYNOTE | Brave New Work

Are you ready to reinvent your organization?

What’s it all about? What’s stopping us from doing the best work of our lives? Even when it appears – as in the current moment – that the world conspires against us? It’s ultimately about the way we work. Bureaucracy. Hierarchy. Compliance. We may not be post-COVID for some time, but when we get there, who would want a new normal version of bureaucracy, hierarchy, and compliance?! Rodney Evans joins us from Durham, North Carolina for this provocative look at how HR can help fix broken organizations. It starts by reinventing operating systems—the fundamental principles and practices that shape company cultures. Companies aren’t machines to be predicted and controlled, but complex human systems full of potential to be harnessed. Rodney shares what she has learned on the front lines of organizational transformation inside some of the largest institutions in the world.

Why you’ll want to participate in this session.

  • Discover the sociological origins of work, as we know it, — starting from the factory floors of the Industrial Revolution and spreading to every industry.
  • Understand the relationship between operating systems and company cultures.
  • Uncover how the most forward-looking leaders strategically trade bureaucracy and compliance for something more adaptive, futuristic, and human.
  • Be a leader in reinventing your organization’s operating system. As a first step, you’ll recognize that change management (as we know it today) must change. And for the icing on the cake, you’ll understand how to scale these changes to the needs and size of your company

Approved for SHRM Credit and HRCI Business.

Program Faculty: Rodney Evans

2:45 pm - 3:45 pm
MEGASESSION | The Intersection of Privacy, Transparency and Ethics

When You Have to Conduct Workplace Investigations from Your Living Room

What’s it all about? There will be a lot of talk this year about “trust” and how HR gets caught in the middle of so many challenging scenarios. There’s no more obvious inflection point for these challenges than internal workplace investigations, and now those investigations are coming at you in a new context. Offending behavior may occur in any number of places – at your worksite, at a public site, and to the far reaches of cyberspace. For example, an employee posts something incendiary about Black Lives Matters on social media. You may be conducting your investigation from your armchair and interviewing “witnesses” on the screen. Where do your duties take you? Your first responsibility is to your employer, and yet you have ethical obligations and personal connections with all the parties in an investigation – the accuser, the accused, and potential witnesses. Many of these obligations portend legal consequences, which is why we’ve invited employment law experts Charla Stevens and Adam Hamel from the McLane law firm to lead you in a discussion of a range of privacy, transparency, recordkeeping, and other duties associated with an effective and fair workplace investigation. Our presenters promise some interesting, participatory scenarios where you’ll hone your skills as sleuth, arbiter, and student of the law. 

Why you’ll want to participate in this session. 

  • Discuss the broad range of skills required when conducting and managing a remote workplace investigation.  
  • Consider the position of HR when wearing the investigator’s hat, and how best to create an atmosphere that honors the values structure, and culture, of your organization. 
  • Understand the legal and compliance obligations associated with a proper investigation.  

Approved for SHRM Credit and HRCI General (HR) Credit. 

Program Faculty: Adam Hamel, Charla Stevens

2:45 pm - 3:45 pm
FORUM | Going Back to Campus?

Lessons from the “re-opening.” Strategies for the future.

What’s it all about? It’s fall. We’re going back to campus, but not in a way anyone could have imagined just a few months ago. As we apply enormous energy to clawing our way out of a COVID hole, the wise among us also are keeping their eyes on the horizon. What does this mean for the institutions we cherish? How will universities and colleges adapt and lead? And, what are the implications for their people functions? We’ve invited a college President and a university CHRO to share how they are approaching the return to the classroom and how they imagine the future. Joining us: Christopher D. Lee is the CHRO of William & Mary (founded in 1693) and Mahesh Daas is the President of the Boston Architectural College (established in 2006). Joe Andrews, a faculty member at the Mt. Washington editions of this conference, moderates this engaging forum.

Why you’ll want to participate in this session.

  • Discuss the strategic challenges for return to school/work in institutions with multiple stakeholders – students, faculty, the greater workforce, society, alumni, governing bodies, and the government itself.
  • Observe how the BAC, with a core function in spatial design, now faces a future demanding a different kind of workspace, living space, urban design, and environmental integrity. How are they creating this future and aligning their stakeholders to the challenges?
  • Watch how William & Mary, the second oldest college in America, re-purposes the role of a liberal arts education, aligning it with workforce development and the skillsets required for critical thinking and agility – all skill sets that happen to be demanded of HR leaders as well.

Approved for SHRM Credit and HRCI Business Credit.

Program Faculty: Christopher D. Lee, Joe Andrews, Mahesh Daas

4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
On the Road to the Grand Canyon

The Impactful Business Partner During COVID-19

What’s it all about? “If you ask me, when something extraordinary shows up in your life in the middle of the night, you give it a name and make it the best home you can.” The words of Barbara Kingsolver in High Tide in Tucson. When momentous things happen – and that certainly is the case now – how do you recognize the challenge, identify potential allies, and turn towards the betterment? How can HR leaders grasp the crises of health, economy, and race relations and rise to those challenges? Identifying and cultivating networks inside and outside your organization is a pretty good start, and we’ve invited three friends from the Southwest to discuss how they do just that. Moderator Mark Christensen from Phoenix is an advocate for this conference and one of the best networkers in the business. Dr. Denise Montoya, from New Mexico Highland University, discusses building relationships in one of the more diverse states in the country. Margaret Lynch from Fort Defiance Indian Hospital speaks to alliances and how they support the Navajo Nation healthcare system she serves. We employ the Grand Canyon as a metaphorical backdrop for a discussion about surprise, connectivity, and adaptation.

Why you’ll want to participate in this session.

  • Discover how HR leaders can better contribute to organizational strategy and results through the cultivation of business partnerships, both from the inside and outside of your organization.
  • Consider how to recognize and support partners who share your values, and who at the same time bring diverse points of view to the table, as this will suit you well for both long-term goals and short-term crisis management.
  • Initiate a process at the highest levels of your organization that helps measure the quality and value of the alliances you build.

Approved for SHRM Credit and HRCI Business

Program Faculty: Denise Montoya, Margaret Lynch, Mark Christensen

5:15 pm - 6:15 pm
ENCORE: Can I Tell You A Secret?

Lessons from the most trusted stranger in America.

What’s it all about? In 2005, Frank Warren invited strangers in Washington, D.C. to mail a postcard to his home address with a secret they wanted to share anonymously. Each week, Frank would select a few secrets and post them to a blog – What started as a small, personal interest project, inspired by his background in crisis counseling, soon turned into a global movement – culminating in millions of collected secrets, six New York Times Bestselling Books, and over $1M in donations to suicide prevention advocacy organizations. Over the years, Frank has also traveled the world to share the lessons learned from his work. By covering topics such as anxiety, stigma, imposter syndrome, substance abuse, social isolation, self-harm, LGBTQ issues, and diversity, he has helped to curate powerful networks and communities within countless organizations.

Why you’ll want to participate in this session.

  • Consider HR’s role as the “secret keeper” of an organization and the critical part we play to inspire confidence and reliability within the workplace community.
  • Recognize the inherent value in creating a culture that allows for diverse talent to participate authentically. Look inward at what barriers may prevent your workforce from presenting their full cultural add to your team.
  • Take away actionable tools for your workplace in order to build a culture of mental wellness, empathy, and inclusivity.

Approved for SHRM Credit and HRCI General(HR) Credit.

Program Faculty: Frank Warren
Wednesday, October 21, 2020 Thursday, October 22, 2020 Wednesday, October 28, 2020