Steve Pemberton

Plenary Speaker

Steve Pemberton

Chief Human Resources Officer & Best Selling Author


Steve Pemberton is a visionary senior human resources (HR) executive, human capital strategist, bestselling author, ardent human rights champion, youth advocate and one of the most inspiring leaders of our time. A passionate communicator and powerful presenter, Steve is widely appreciated for his ability to connect with a broad spectrum of audiences. From corporate America and the non-profit world to healthcare and higher education, Steve's relentless mission and framework continue to inspire and encourage others to deliver trusted guideposts for living, learning and leading.

From to Walgreens, Steve has consistently served in leadership positions that have furthered his gift for seeking the greater good and creating engaged communities and organizations. Most recently, he served as the chief HR officer of Workhuman, a technology company that delivers performance management and employee engagement solutions to corporations worldwide. There, he avidly fostered the company's goal of inspiring HR leaders to embrace more humanity and cultivate a higher purpose in the workplace and in their communities. Steve is exceptionally skilled at creating inspiring, innovative environments while recognizing and developing talent. His "next practices" approach has successfully created award-winning organizational cultures that create maximum performance.

Steve's philosophy on human capital has been shaped by positions that delivered talent solutions to HR executives. As a result, he has observed how domestic and international organizations manage talent, particularly as the relationship between employer and employee has transformed in a world still recovering from a global pandemic. A highly sought-after voice on workplace trends, he presents at the most recognizable HR conferences in the world, is interviewed often by the business media on human capital matters and consults with organizations across the world on their talent strategies.

Beyond his professional achievements in the world of HR, Steve is also widely known as the author of two critically acclaimed, bestselling books. His first, A Chance in the World, shares his extraordinary story of how he defied seemingly impossible odds as an orphan navigating the perils of the foster care system all while trying to solve the mystery of his own identity. In 2018, the book was adapted into an independent film of the same name. A partnership with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt led to creating an integrated social-emotional learning curriculum based on the book, taught today in high schools throughout the United States.

Steve's second book, The Lighthouse Effect: How Ordinary People Can Have an Extraordinary Impact in the World, offers practical encouragement for becoming a "human lighthouse" – turning personal pain into a purposeful mission to help others, as he has done in his own life. The power of his life story, and its many engaging insights, has led to numerous highprofile media appearances, including the Today Show, CBS Evening News, Tamron Hall and People magazine.

Steve's personal and professional accomplishments have been recognized through numerous honors. A former candidate for the United States Senate, he received the prestigious Horizon Award from the U.S. Congress, presented to private-sector individuals who have expanded opportunities for all Americans through their own contributions and who have set exceptional examples for young people through their successes in life. Steve is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achiever Award by the New England Opportunity Association. Winston-Salem State University, Providence College and Boston College are among the institutions that awarded him an honorary doctorate.

With a steadfast commitment to people and community wellbeing, Steve gives abundantly of his time, talent and convictions. His robust history of service includes membership on the boards of the University & College Accountability Network, Loyola Academy, Boston College, The Wily Network, the Academy for Urban School Leadership, Boys Hope Girls Hope and Disability:IN, the leading nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide. At every turn, Steve continues with his own "Lighthouse Effect" by fulfilling his mission for all to have "A Chance in the World."

As a keynote speaker, Steve has earned high praise for his highly collaborative style, working closely with clients to seamlessly customize his content to the messaging goals and themes for each event. A gifted communicator and powerful storyteller, he consistently receives stellar reviews for his ability to connect with a wide spectrum of audiences and organizations. As one client said, "Steve Pemberton was one of the most incredible speakers I have ever had the pleasure of hearing."

“Steve Pemberton was one of the most incredible speakers I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. His message fit perfectly with our programming as he customized every last word. His own personal story had the audience standing in ovation at the end.”

—Cyracom International

“I have been coming to our conference for 47 years and I’ve never met a man like him; heard a story like his or witnessed an impact like the one he had on us. A good man made great by his goodness.”