SHRM 2012 Day 1: Embrace Change, Mend the Skills Gap

The 64th annual Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Conference and Expo kicked off Sunday in Atlanta, with a focus on mending the skills gap in the United States and the importance of embracing change as a means for growth in today’s global and complex business environment.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered the opening keynote to a packed hall of thousands of HR professionals, more than 1,100 of whom traveled from roughly 80 countries outside of the U.S.

Condoleezza Rice opens Day 1 of the SHRM Conference (Image courtesy of SHRM).

Rice used her 20-minute address to emphasize her passion for education and warned attendees that without an improved focus on K-12 education, U.S. corporations risked falling behind.

“I’m passionate about what education affords people, and I’m deeply concerned about education today,” Rice said during a special Q&A portion after her address, moderated by CNN morning news anchor Soledad O’Brien. “The crisis in K-12 education may indeed be our greatest national security threat,” she said earlier during her address.

Rice, who is currently a tenured professor of Political Economy in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, also placed special emphasis during her keynote on the need for the U.S. to embrace the power of immigration reform as a means to boost business. Some of the best innovators at the helm of the most profitable and successful U.S. corporations — namely Google’s Sergey Brin — came from outside the U.S., Rice said.

As profound and engaging as Rice’s remarks were, much of the content swayed toward political conversation and at times had the feel of a stump speech. This was especially evident during her Q&A with CNN’s O’Brien, when much of the discussion dealt with her opinions on U.S. involvement in Syria and other current foreign policy subjects, which the audience seemed to enjoy all the same.

Attendees stormed the exposition floor at the conclusion of Rice’s remarks, where hundreds of vendors are set for four days of showcasing the latest in talent management technology, media and services.

Keep it here for more updates on keynotes, vendor news, SHRM news and interesting workshop insights as the week goes on.