A record 304 attendees gathered for the North American Division’s (NAD) “Engage” Human Resources Conference, held April 23-25, 2023, in Chantilly, Virginia The event offered various sessions and activities, including daily devotionals, presentations, panel discussions, policy updates, training workshops, and networking opportunities. Attendees could also earn SHRM Professional Development Credits (PDCs) and access HR resources.
The “Engage” conference aimed to inspire attendees to engage more fully in the mission and ministry of human resources. It also sought to equip attendees with “better tools, information, and techniques for engaging with employees,” said Danielle Toddy, NAD HR director.
“Engage” catered to individuals with human resource management responsibilities in settings such as conferences, unions, academies, higher education institutions, and students and career changers. The sessions covered wide-ranging topics, including immigration, risk management, remote working, and retirement, with breakouts on the Adventist and regional retirement plans, mentorship, best practices for recruiting and onboarding, and employee psychology.
A critical session focused on attracting the next generation. It highlighted Generation Z’s impact in the workplace, characterizing them as digital natives who value independence, entrepreneurship, flexibility, and mentorship. The importance of robust mentorship programs, whether formal, distance, peer-to-peer, or group-based, was emphasized. Notably, mentorship is a strategic focus area for the NAD in this quinquennium.
During the conference, Orna Garnett, former NAD HR director, received an award for outstanding leadership. The event also recognized Lori Yingling, retiring HR director of the General Conference, and Jim H. Kizziar, Jr., also retiring, a Bracewell LLP partner who served the NAD for 43 years.
In line with the mentorship theme, the NAD sponsored three students to attend the convention, which resulted in all three connecting with local conferences and securing summer internships. One of these students was Oscar Alcarz, a business administration major from Union College. The college doesn’t offer an HR major, but the HR classes he took sophomore year piqued his interest in the field. “Getting more insight into HR [here] makes me even more interested. If I could, I’d go into HR right after college,” he said.
Kiona Costello, a Weimar University senior with an interdisciplinary major focused on psychology and business, said, “I really enjoyed networking and learning about different aspects of HR.” She continued, “As for my future, I know God has called me to the HR field in some capacity, … and I’m excited to see where He places me.”
The notion of HR as integral to the church’s mission was woven into all the sessions, as well as an HR professionals dinner. “When I got into HR in the church, it was important to understand how my role was connected to [our mission] of creating disciples. I started to find it when I engaged with employees, supporting them through personal challenges and development and helping them understand what resources are available so they [can] do their roles,” said Toddy.
Sarah Kelly, NAD HR systems and training specialist, added, “The blessing [of Engage] was to see the connection between [the services we provide] and our calling to minister and reflect Jesus. That was empowering to me.”
In his closing charge, G. Alexander Bryant, NAD president, urged attendees to view their work in HR as a spiritual mission. “Most HR departments are there to equip [people] to do what [they’re] skilled to do. In the church, HR equips [people] to do what God has called them to do.” He concluded, “Today, I charge you to be more than an HR director. Be the hands and feet of God, encouraging men and women to do the extraordinary in God’s service, [for His] cause.”
Mark your calendars for the NAD's next HR conference, which will be held April 21-23, 2024, in San Diego, California. Look out for further details.