5 Things We Learned About the Future of HR from SXSW 2019

03.22.19Baylee Olsen

With an exciting month like March, so much is going on to celebrate, participate in and learn from. So along with it being women’s history month, and International Women’s Day, we can also thank everyone for participating in the SXSW Conference this week for their insights into what’s to come in the world of business and more specifically, human resources.

If you’re not familiar with it, SXSW is a massive conference dedicated to creative industries, while aligning conferences from top keynote speakers in all industries across the board. Every year, in Austin, Texas, the city hosts thousands of people attending music festivals, exhibitions and even networking opportunities. This event has changed and evolved over the last 32 years, but at its core, SXSW remains a tool for creative people to develop their careers by bringing together people from around the globe to meet, learn and share ideas.

This year one of the main topics on the conference list was the Future Workplace featuring talks from Dropbox, Remote Year, Mastercard, Salesforce, and more. Here’s what we’ve learned from their insightful conferences:

Company Culture Influences Branding

To be traditional in your ideas as it relates to culture will not allow growth and will most likely bring a halt to any forward moving progress.  The idea of branding your company has transformed and requires reflection and awareness of the culture beyond your definition, but rather, a deep look into the culture outside of your world. In essence, culture and brands are inextricably linked and it is no longer about you, but the impact you can make in the world, beyond the bottom line.  Your company culture should reflect your vision and direction in every aspect, including the workspace.  

For the past 3 years, GIPHY has been invited to speak at the conference and has provided insight on the moving world and the connection of people.  Their company culture genuinely includes their employees, the human-side of things and the importance of today’s dependence on communication.  GIF’s founder, Alex Chung, conveys the importance of expression and transcends this message within the workspace walls for their employees. They believe in their employees and the value of bringing employee’s personalities into the space.  The message of their culture and branding are distinctly unique and remarkably intertwined.  

The Future is Remote

What are YOU working for? The answer to this question will vary and can compel a company to listen and take action with change or continue down the path of a stagnant mindset.  The new workforce values things differently and less traditional methods of communication are the new wave of work. What does the workforce of tomorrow look like and will your organization embrace and thrive in this rapidly changing workplace culture?

The future is moving to more experts in their field and less general knowledge among employees. Most employers are ready to pay the top dollar for hiring and retaining a remote candidate, whenever they cannot find certain expertise locally.  A new generation is joining the workforce and desires to work with an employer who seeks to understand their needs and values beyond traditional working relationships of the past. Whether a company supports it or not, more people want to work when they want, where they want, how they want and it’s up to companies to determine how they will embrace this new progression.

The future is remote work, more concise work and more innovative work.  Although employees want to have more autonomy, in turn, employers will be requiring more strategic and energetic employees who believe in their brand.  The employer-employee relationship of 2019 and beyond will include forward-thinking collaborators who understand the importance of diverse communication and technology.  Gone are the days when remote work was just a fascinating anomaly–barely heard of and rarely practiced by most organizations.

Employee Experience Should be Viewed the Same as Customer Experience


Because happy employees are motivated employees, and that has a direct impact on your customer retention and your bottom line. Point blank; negative feedback spreads faster than positive, and you have to work harder to bounce back after going in the red.

When Anna Lambert, Director of Talent, at Shopify gets up to present, everybody listens. That’s because the value of her insights are enough to change the landscape of how we view company culture and what it means to a brand’s value. During her panel ‘Who Owns Employee Culture?’ she goes into how Shopify offers their employees the opportunity to explore entrepreneurship and better understand what it’s like to start a business, so they can easily relate to their customers, who are small businesses.

Frequent and Honest Feedback is Not Only Welcome – It’s Required

Within the evolution of the “new” workforce brings to mind the evolution of the need for open and honest communication within any successful organization.  As Dropbox stated during the conference, now it’s all about this idea of teams in sync, as opposed to merely your product or bottom line being in sync.  If including your employees in part of your business plan and successfully conveying that plan is not an integral part of your culture, then a crucial component of forward-leadership is lacking.

Feedback is a crucial component of any organization, but more importantly, the needs to be valuable and honest.  Feedback should be impactful and meaningful which is an approach that brings overall happiness to employees. Employees want to know they can thrive in their workplace and confident that their ideas are heard and have a sense of belonging.  You might ask, how does this type of connection in the workplace exist and what does it look like?

Companies can take small steps in the right direction by observing more, sharing your appreciation and empowering your team to have a voice.  43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week.  

“If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

– Sam Walton

You’re Hiring for Growth of Company and Individual

As the future is constantly evolving, so are people, and forward-thinking employers can’t expect their employees to stick around for longer than 3-5 years anymore. Gone are the days of a 20-year career and cushy retirement fund. Millennials are not just working for the money, are working for the experience, to have something they can be proud of and find genuine joy in.

“This whole level of wholeness is a place where I am able to show up as a full human being with all of my gifts to the table to be a part of this organization. That leads to a great feeling of inclusiveness because what it allows me then to do is to bring this real, authentic self to the table and to really love the work that I do.”

– Kimo Kippen (Founder of Aloha Learning Advisors and former CLO at Hilton and Vice President of Learning at Marriott)