BYU Marriott Hosts Annual HR Innovations Conference

PROVO, Utah – Dec 16, 2019 – “What question are you living?” Hal Gregersen asked more than 250 attendees during his keynote speech at BYU Marriott’s annual HR Innovations Conference held 7–8 November 2019. Audience members listened as the 1983 BYU organizational behavior alumnus and 2019 Dyer Distinguished Alumni Award recipient shared his experience on how learning to ask and live by the right questions saved his life.

 After living by the wrong question—How do I make everyone else happy?—Gregersen suffered a stress-induced heart attack that nearly killed him. As a result of this experience, he realized he needed to change his life’s question to “How can I reflect light here and now?”

Gregersen’s life work centers around studying and learning from innovative leaders such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Ed Catmull of Pixar, and Elon Musk of Tesla. He’s regularly worked with large companies such as Coca-Cola, Disney, Chanel, and Intel, as well as nonprofits such as UNICEF. He has also authored and co-authored multiple books including The Innovator’s DNA and Questions Are the Answer.

Gregersen was one of four keynote speakers at the BYU Marriott Department of Management’s HR Innovations Conference, which the department has hosted since 1981 to bring together alumni, students, and faculty to share the latest ideas in human resources, leadership, and organizational development. The conference also included six breakout sessions, business exhibits and instructions, and breaks for informal networking.

Keynote speaker Dave Kinard, former BYU football defensive back and another recipient of the 2019 Dyer Distinguished Alumni Award for his innovative HR work for companies such as Eli Lilly and Elanco Animal Health, spoke on the waves of change. “Most change fails to live up to its original ambition, but most profound change happens in waves,” says Kinard. “Social movements, democracy, civil rights, women’s suffrage—lasting change happens one ripple at a time.”

Elder Kim Clark, who recently joined BYU Marriott as the NAC Professor of Business, gave a keynote speech discussing mobilizing and motivating leadership, and BYU Marriott MBA graduate and comedian Adam Broud hosted a business session where attendees learned how to use improv to improve communication, creativity, and camaraderie among colleagues.

Ascendant Leader awards were also presented during the conference to Starr Fowler, senior vice president of human resources at Vivint, and Sean Morrison, vice president of human resources at Mountain America Credit Union. These awards are given annually to BYU Marriott HR alumni from the MBA program who have made a significant impact in their fields within the first few years of their careers.

Closing keynote speaker Chris McChesney, co-author of The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals, a Wall Street Journal number-one business bestseller, shared his trade secrets on helping companies prioritize and change key behaviors in order to achieve success.

Other conference speakers included Utah Valley University professor of leadership and ethics Susan Madsen, who spoke on the need for more female leaders in the field; BYU Horace Beesley Professor of Strategy and The Innovator’s DNA co-author Jeff Dyer, who spoke on innovative leadership; Tracy Maylett, CEO of DecisionWise and BYU Marriott adjunct professor and alum, who discussed engaging employees; Murray Low, CEO of ExecutiveScience and a BYU Marriott alum, who spoke about leadership in the twenty-first century; and Mark Hamberlin, executive VP of Clark Construction and a BYU Marriott alum who discussed competing for talent.

“Putting this conference together was a team effort,” says Kristen DeTienne, conference organizer and professor of management at BYU Marriott, who was impressed by how willing people were to help. “My colleagues jumped in to assist whenever needed. I'm amazed by how the friends and alumni of BYU Marriott generously donate their time in preparing to speak at the conference.”

The opportunity to learn from the experiences of others in the field was particularly meaningful to Rachel Hernandez, a senior from Olympia, Washington, studying human resource management. “The organizers of the conference brought interesting and diverse people to campus for us to learn from and to share different points of view,” she says.

The highlight of the conference, according to Amy Coenen, another senior studying HRM from South Weber, Utah, was participating in hands-on, out-of-classroom learning. “The speakers provided concrete examples of how to be successful within HR specifically. I can see myself growing and applying those lessons in my own career.”

Two female students talk with a career professional in a room full of people. They appear to be smiling and laughing, one of them has dark curly hair and the other is a sandy blonde. The one with dark hair wears a nametag reading
Students and professionals alike had the opportunity to network at the conference. (BYU Photo)
Hal Gregerson, a man with grey hair wearing all black speaks in front of an audience.
Hal Gregerson spoke to conference goers. (BYU Photo)

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Anne Wallace