Do We Shake Hands at SHRM 2021?

Do We Shake Hands at SHRM 2021?

By Tricia O'Connor

Conference etiquette normally calls for a “hello” and a handshake. But COVID-19 may have people at SHRM 2021 ditching the tradition out of safety concerns. 

With the Society for Human Resource Management annual conference and expo just around the corner, are we bound to see elbow bumps and air high-fives?

We know for sure we’ll see masks. SHRM is in Las Vegas, and everyone in indoor spaces in Nevada is required to wear a mask per state mandate. 

But how do these safety precautions affect people’s interactions? Let’s dive into the new etiquette rules for conferences and conventions. 

SHRM 2021 Las Vegas

More than a year later, the pandemic is still messing things up for SHRM 2021 Las Vegas and its thousands of attendees. But the annual SHRM expo is still one of the most important learning and networking events for Human Resources professionals. Organizations have leaned heavily on their HR teams in new and challenging ways as the pandemic has evolved and will continue to do so in our rapidly changing environment.

SHRM reports 41% of employees feel burned out from work, and businesses need their HR professionals to remain empathetic to modern workforce needs.

But HR teams need support, too: 86% of HR professionals have sought solutions for coping with COVID-19.

That’s why the show must go on for SHRM – despite the hurdles the pandemic keeps putting in the way.

We’ve been highlighting some of the most important SHRM information in weekly blogs. Catch up on everything you need to know about SHRM here:

Safety at SHRM

One of the questions on many people’s minds is, “How can we network and socialize safely at SHRM?”

At the center of this question lies the greeting so many professionals use at business events – the handshake.

In a roundtable discussion we conducted with conference industry experts, Cherlene Willis, Managing Director of the HR Division at Opal Group, says conferences need to prioritize safety measures while still achieving the ultimate goal of connecting people.

“I think, without a doubt, we’ll take all health and safety precautions very seriously and make hand washing and sanitizing stations available throughout spaces and encourage masks and contact tracing so we know where people are coming and going and who they’ve been in contact with,” says Willis. “From now on, we will need someone on-site to serve as a Chief Safety Officer. We’ll need that person to make sure surfaces are being cleaned in a timely manner and that if we notice people are not obeying social distancing, those people will need to be rearranged.”

Shake Hands at SHRM

But a handshake is an entirely different – and personal – matter. We recently polled our LinkedIn audience about their preference for the longstanding gesture.

While our survey shows there are more folks who will forego a handshake (a 10% difference), the results were much closer than other research indicates.

A May 2021 poll of 1,000 workers in the United Kingdom and Germany showed 72% of respondents will no longer shake hands.

And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people avoid direct contact like shaking hands.

Resorting to waves and elbow bumps is a tough blow for some people who feel most comfortable, and polite, with using a handshake. After all, some researchers theorize the handshake was initially used as a gesture of peace and grew in popularity in the United States after the Quakers began using it as a democratic form of greeting.

“I think the safety and protection and trust attendees or sponsors or speakers feel will be a very personal decision,” says Jodee Bock, founder of Bock’s Office Transformational Consulting, and sought-after keynote speaker and workshop facilitator.

Just as our poll indicates, there will probably be a mix of personal greetings at SHRM and many attendees may face a little internal conflict as they figure out not only what they feel safe doing, but what the people around them feel safe doing. If everyone can practice a little empathy, people will hopefully feel welcome no matter what greeting they use.

Meet EBI at SHRM 2021

Regardless of how you’d like to say hi, we sure do hope you’ll stop by our EBI booth #4051 at SHRM. Our EBI team loves the energy and camaraderie on the convention floor – and we are excited to connect with HR professionals, our partners, and new vendors. We’ll be on hand to answer all your questions about background screening, drug testing, and anything else related to modern workforce recruiting. 

So please visit the EBI Team at SHRM 2021 Las Vegas or reach out to us beforehand and let us know you’d like to connect.

See you at SHRM 2021 Las Vegas! 

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

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