This blog was written by wattsnext’s CEO Ben Watts as part of the #SHRMBloggers team for the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition. To see the original article click here.

As I started packing my bag for #SHRM19 last night (SHRM is the largest Human Resource conference in the world) I had a moment of panic. My heart started racing. I can’t afford the time, there is too much happening, my task-list is a mile long….

I am the Chief Executive Officer of a Human Resources Consulting firm called wattsnext based in Australia, servicing Small to Medium businesses across Australia and Globally. For the past four years we have attended the SHRM annual conference in the United States. The past three years proudly as part of the #SHRMBloggers team. Global learning is part of our brand and we pride ourselves on being forward thinking HR Experts.

My heart rate dropped back to normal as I realised I was trapped inside ‘my’ bubble.

We all have a bubble of various size that we get trapped in. Some bubbles cover a home, others a business, some cover a city and others a country. But we all have bubbles that can limit our ability to grow.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit Richard Branson on Necker Island for a conference with an incredible group of Australian business owners. The group was small and the speakers world class, we all interacted for three days storytelling and experience sharing. Something that will always stick with me was Richard himself sat in on most sessions and meals. He took notes and asked questions like a keen graduate. His thirst for learning could not be quenched.

Door to door the transit from Queensland Australia is about 30 hours, but I wouldn’t miss the annual SHRM conference for these five reasons:

  1. Global perspective: Even in the current connection economy where information is more readily available than it has been in history, we need to consciously make the effort to consume it. SHRM provides the environment for intense learning through speakers, exhibitors and attendees. The opportunity to learn from the best in the world is a good enough reason to attend.
  2. Fresh ideas: Who doesn’t like a new idea? Why not fast track your development and actively seek some new, tried and tested concepts from the best in the world?
  3. Solitude: is scientifically proven to spark creativity and promote out of the box thinking. There may be 20,000 attendees, but the truth is travel time and generally time away from the day to day pressures of your work, is incredibly valuable to your development.
  4. New goals: listening to international speakers and experts in specific fields is inspirational and with inspiration comes aspiration. It is almost impossible not to re-calibrate your personal and professional goals after attending the annual SHRM conference.
  5. Connection: building networks digitally and IRL is essential to growth and development. Cultural differences, different governance, new markets and new friends stimulate new ideas and solutions.

Human Resources as a function has traditionally been isolated inside businesses. Don’t get consumed by theoretical models, internal politics and drama. Open your mind to new ideas and experiences that expand your learning.

‘the world is a massive place, but sometimes your bubble restricts your growth’

I better get back to packing! I’m looking forward to plenty of laughs and storytelling with the fellow #SHRMBloggers in a few days’ time. I would love to hear from Business owners, Senior Executives and HR professionals on how you maintain your thirst for learning.

How do you step outside your bubble?


Author: Ben Watts
Ben is a veteran in the HR space- a forward-thinking leader specialising in functional business structures and people performance techniques. With twenty years’ experience managing large ASX listed corporates across multiple industries, Ben adds depth and expertise to our clients' strategy solutions, genuinely providing a commercial result for their investment.

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