Let me first say that I can’t believe I’m about to write this post. After all, I’m supposed to be the radical, status quo crushing HR leader who runs around in his spare time calling himself a Talent Anarchist. If anyone should be chucking rocks at the establishment, it should be me. Instead, I find myself compelled to defend the institution. Weird.
Over the past month or so, our beloved professional association, SHRM, has taken a beating around the blogosphere. There have been several articles on TLNT (here, here, and here) regarding some snafu’s at the board level. Mark and Laurie at www.voiceofHR.com hosted a series of posts from prominent HR bloggers who detail their recommendations for what SHRM should do in 2011 (some great ideas, a lot of criticism). And then there were several of the folks at Fistful of Talent who, after having session proposals rejected by SHRM for the annual conference, have decided to host their own conference in Vegas the day before the SHRM conference kicks off. It’s been a rough stretch in the online world for SHRM lately.
I’d like to pile on. I was even tempted to do so. But, I’m not sure that SHRM is the problem. Let me first say that I’m not a fan of how the SHRM board has been handling their business lately and I’ve gone on record publicly saying as much. That aside, as an HR executive, I’m thankful for SHRM daily. Most members of my HR team are SHRM members. Several either have PHR certifications or are pursuing them. We use SHRM resources to get answers and perspectives to HR issues when we encounter things we haven’t seen before. I appreciate their email newsletters that help me keep up to date on what’s happening at macro levels around key issues in HR.
I’m also thankful for the SHRM structure that has facilitated the creation of the two active and healthy local SHRM chapters we have in Omaha and Lincoln. These chapters provide affordable, regular developmental and training opportunities for my staff and the other HR professionals in the area. And, all of this is provided to us for less than a few hundred dollars a year. A pretty great bargain in my opinion.
The discussion and the angst with SHRM is indicative of something much bigger. As I’ve read through these online discussions, here are the thoughts that have come to mind for me.
- HR is at a turning point. It’s become increasingly evident to everyone in the world of business that competitive advantage is ultimately about the people. This is creating an incredible demand for smart, business savvy HR leaders who can step forward and take the lead–not just in the HR department, but in the organization. Problem is, most HR leaders either aren’t capable or aren’t competent to make this transition today. This is creating some incredibly intense pressure on current HR leaders and they aren’t sure what to do.
- Because of this friction being created between market demand for HR talent and the supply of strong, HR executive leadership, something’s got to give and we all want someone to blame. So, we turn our attention to SHRM. If only they would be more strategic, or more proactive, or more embracing of social media deviants, or [fill in the blank]. This is a load of crap. SHRM isn’t the problem. I am. We are.
- HR will only rise to it’s potential and it’s calling when HR leaders decide that they must first change. The problems in HR aren’t new. HR was born out of administrative requirements forced upon organizations by regulation. These early personnel departments created a dumping ground for all things administrative and touchy-feely. Problem is, we never shook this stuff off. HR leaders have to be where the buck stops. They have to redefine and re-imagine what the corporate HR department does and how it creates value for the organization. (While I’m on my pulpit, it’s not about changing the name of the department. Human Resources is a perfect name for what we do. If you think changing the name of your department will fix your problems, you are delusional).
- Note to HR Leaders and Bloggers, SHRM does not exist to serve you. SHRM will never be a place for those leading the revolution. They, like any large organization, have to appeal to the middle of the bell curve. Should they role model some progressive behavior like social media? Probably. But remember that a majority of our profession is just coming around to the idea that social media is here to stay. If SHRM gets too progressive, they risk alienating the core of their membership. Not a reason not to innovate, just something that I’m sure is tough to balance if you live on the inside of the organization.
- We need to be careful in the arguments we make. Mark Stelzner specifically took SHRM to task for having two consecutive CEO’s who didn’t hold an HRCI certification of some sort. Really? Mark is a brilliant guy and I normally shout “Amen!” to most of his posts, but he and I diverge here. Are we honestly going to stand up and say that we value certification and technical skill over the competence to get the job done? Or, that a CEO can’t advocate for a certification he doesn’t have? The PHR certifications are designed for people who are practicing HR. I don’t want an HR practitioner running SHRM, I want a CEO. I don’t give a flip about certifications if you can get the job done. Let’s find a CEO for SHRM who has vision, leadership, business savvy, integrity, courage, and a burning desire to advance the profession of HR. And once this person is hired, I’m hoping they spend time running the organization, not studying for a certification.
I guess at the end of all of this, I can summarize my thoughts like this. I hope that SHRM continues to do what they do well and that they continue to strive for improvement. But, SHRM isn’t going to transform the profession of HR. That’s up to us.