Expectations always rise on the second day of a high-quality conference; this year was no exception. The presentations and ideas shared on day two certainly matched the quality of the preceding day and in more than a few cases, provided additional “wow” moments.  Here are a few quotes and notes I took from the day:

“When was the last time you ‘high-fived’ in a company parking lot?”

The morning session was kicked-off with the CEO view of Mark Parrish of Igloo, who demonstrated  his passion for culture, learning, and commitment by what he said, how he said it, and what he has accomplished in his organization. When he said that at Igloo, employees are referred to as “fun-stigators,” you know you have an unusual leader at the top—one not satisfied with soliciting employee compliance, but through a genuine culture to capture commitment. Mark’s CEO / “teach-igator” presentation included working through a flipchart on the five fundamentals of his workplace culture. It was instructive and genuine. And cool.

“Talent is the magic why not release their superpowers?”

Pat Wadors, CHRO and SVP of the Global Talent Organization at LinkedIn brought her own sense of cool with an equally genuine and passionate story of belonging as the necessary third element of having a diverse and inclusive workplace. With personal stories backup with visuals of Lego Superheroes, Pat’s message was clearly that of a thought-leader and active practitioner nudging D&I thinking in a new direction. Pat built a credible case for adding “belonging” to the D&I conversation, ending with this reminder: “With an intentional culture of belonging, there is more forgiveness when you don’t get it right. If they understand the goal of belonging, employees will help you.”

“There was never a more important time to have the strength of our culture.”

In the next session, i4cp’s CEO Kevin Oakes sat down for an informal onstage conversation with George Rose, EVP, People and Organization, Sony Pictures Entertainment to recount the 2014 cyberattack of Sony by North Korea.  It’s one thing to have a financially motivated hacker attack your company’s server, it’s quite another when a nation-state wants to destroy you, Rose noted. What unfolded in this session was a fascinating story of courage, resiliency, and strength. George spoke about the commitment and dedication of Sony’s employees in facing unprecedented threats while navigating the daily challenge of the unknown. Among the lessons learned, the theme of communication and transparency was reinforced both for the more routine business changes and the occasional trials of the extreme.

“Quality product x acceptance x execution + speed.”

The game plan and story of TIAA’s HR transformation was shared by Skip Spriggs, EVP CHRO and Josh Shamansky, SVP, Chief Talent & Reward Officer. Their guiding formula of determining what HR needs now was noteworthy in its simplicity and clear direction that grounded their successful change effort. Their discussion of TIAA’s focus on “moments that matter” was informative in terms of applying new approaches and value throughout the employee lifecycle. 

“Your job is to optimize the talent sheet like the balance sheet.”

As one voice in a three-panel CHRO discussion, Patrick Cimerola of Choice Hotels International was given this mission by his CEO.  Patrick explained how he used the framework and insight from i4cp’s People-Profit Chain research to meet this challenge.  Loren Herringa of Land O’Lakes, and Skip Spriggs of TIAA also discussed their use of the People-Profit Chain framework to set the HR strategy agenda in their organizations, Both used the PPC to explain the needs and business linkages to senior leaders as well as to guide the work of transformation.  It’s quite notable when you see three very different organizations – and three different CHROs -  find the same framework effective in enabling their work.

“That’s what wrong with this entire field – it’s all crap.”

There’s nothing like a provocative speaker to start the afternoon and Jessica Kriegel,  author of Unfairly Labeled and Oracle OD leader, delivered that and so much more.  With a thoughtful, well-researched and no-holds-barred style, she skillfully took down poplar notions of multi-generational differences. Within the first ten minutes, she revealed the contradictions and faulty research behind many popular books and consulting practices grounded in telling us that the generations are very different. Jessica’s thought-provoking conclusion: “They are actually hiding discrimination and stereotyping with generational labels.” Gave us a lot to think about. She encouraged us to look for the differences and similarities within our own workforces, using our own data about our populations to tailor our work to our employees, rather than following the noise of multi-generational stuff.

“We want to create a workforce eco-system of upwardly mobile talent.”  

Juan Garcia, Director Global Associate Development of Amazon, ended the day’s general session by telling the story of Amazon’s unique career choice program for hourly employees. With over 10,000 participants so far, Amazon is essentially preparing their Fulfillment Center employees to gain new skills and credentials that can enable them leave Amazon for higher-level roles in the community. While noting the internal benefits of better recruitment, retention and productivity of their hourly workforce, Juan revealed the company had a higher purpose in impacting the lives of their employees, communities  and beyond.  Amazon recently announced its plans to “open source” and generously share the program, the platform, and even its center classrooms with other companies. Juan left us thinking as well—are we doing enough in helping our employees and their lives well beyond the short-term interest of the company?