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2011 SHRM Strategic Guidance: Who’s Your Daddy?

November 10, 2010
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I was  quite humbled (and happy) when Voice of HR asked me to contribute to their series “2011 SHRM Strategic Guidance” along with some pretty awesome industry contributors; below is a republication of my post.  Click through and go take a look at some of the advice (and criticism) being offered at the Voice of HR Blog. The gauntlet has been thrown.


SHRM is like Ward Cleaver.  Or Heathcliff Huxtable.  Or that dad who was the minister on “7th Heaven” – you know, that show where Jessica Biel played the oldest daughter until she left to go pose semi-nude for Gear magazine and date Justin Timberlake?

SHRM wears nice, cozy sweaters and wisely dispenses advice and lessons.  At the knee of SHRM, new HR pros often develop their professional identities – learning the patterns of behavior, the habits, beliefs and values of the collective group.  When entering this vast community/family, HR professionals quickly identify the expected standard and rather easily slip into group-think.   Ward was the absolute authority and the supreme ruler of the Cleaver household and Dr. Huxtable, while seeming to be a bit more playful, still remained the definitive rule-maker for his children and let them know in no uncertain terms what behavior was expected.  Sounds kind of familiar.

But children grow up and want to establish their own identity.  They want to drink beer, smoke cigarettes, get a tattoo/piercing and dye their hair purple.  They want to drive to another town for the evening and then set the odometer back on Dad’s car so he doesn’t know they drove to see their  friends who just started college (merely an illustrative example; something like that would have never crossed my mind). Underneath it all, they retain the lessons learned and the imprint of Dad’s wisdom – but they make adjustments for the evolving world and changing circumstances.


Now I’ve been affiliated in one way or another with SHRM since the ASPA days.  I’ve chaired various committees at the chapter level, served in several functions on the state council and state conference planning committee, volunteered for several SHRM Annual Conferences (including as a committee co-chair) and served as a chapter President.  While some may point out that I’ve primarily derived my value from “localized” involvement, none of this would have been possible were it not for the umbrella of SHRM.  I’ve enjoyed the support and the ability to be a volunteer serving other HR professionals.

I always encourage new and long-tenured HR colleagues to join SHRM because it provides ready-access to valuable content and resources.  Personally, I regularly access free webinars, templates and samples, research, and publications and think it’s a great value (even with the impending 2011 dues increase).  I applaud SHRM for moving forward with “defining” the HR profession over the years, and although I may have personally disagreed with some of the legislative stances that SHRM has taken, I’ve always appreciated well thought-out research and decision making.  I know it’s difficult to please 250,000+ members.

But that doesn’t keep me from offering some advice to Dad:

  • Get with the times – before you become a dinosaur.   Anticipate and lead, as opposed to arriving late (see SHRM Connect and most every story by the time it hits the print pages of HR Magazine). 
  • Let me know what’s going on.  The under-the-radar vote to increase the “honorariums” for SHRM board members, while probably still unknown by the vast majority of members, left a bad impression with those of us who paid attention. Your members want and deserve transparency. 
  • Don’t just tell me your strategy – explain it.  The SHRM Strategy outlined in 2009 included a goal that:  “SHRM will engage non-HR professionals.”  So, are we an association for HR professionals or are we primarily interested in dues/revenue generation that we get from increasing membership numbers?  I’ve often wondered why we allow membership for those who merely “hold a bona fide interest in HRM,” as this can very likely be at odds with affiliate-chapter membership requirements.
  • Better yet – include me in the process to define the strategy.    
  • Talk to me.  Ensure that information flows continuously and completely between SHRM Leadership, SHRM staff, volunteer leaders and all members.  Is the SHRM organizational structure and staffing level still sufficient to handle the rapid pace, quick-flowing idea generation and collaborative world we now inhabit?   Is it possible, as an example, that there continues to be a lack of adequate staff resources allocated to supporting the SHRM Affiliate Website program?
  • Listen to me. Let some of the format and sessions at various conferences evolve and be member-driven.  There’s been a groundswell of desire for a “State Conference Practices Session” at the 2010 Leadership Conference.  It’s happening on its own, but why hasn’t SHRM answered the call of its volunteer leaders to add this to the agenda?
  • Recognize that all your children are not the same.  The needs, abilities and resources ($$) of a super-mega chapter are vastly different from those of a small or medium chapter.                                             
  • Shake things up a bit – come on – it’s OK!!  Bring in some new and innovative speakers for the SHRM Annual Conference; HR practitioners, thinkers, futurists, influencers within our profession or in the niches of HR.  Take a chance that you WILL make people uncomfortable with some provocative discussions or topics.  I’ll not only support you – I’ll also quite loudly cheer you on.


So I don’t know – maybe I’ll be like Sondra Huxtable and settle down, have twins, and raise them the same way my Dad raised me. 

Or maybe I’ll just leave the flock and go date Justin Timberlake.

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