SHRM’s Diversity Engagement Efforts Gain Momentum

By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR Jul 28, 2011

Nearly 350 attendees of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas decided to bypass the casinos, shows and buffets to work on building their professional networks. The venue: SHRM’s second Diversity Networking Event, held Monday, June 27, 2011, at the Encore hotel.

The event, which drew even more participants than in 2010, promises to be an annual occurrence, according to Pamela J. Green, SPHR, chief U.S. membership officer for SHRM. “My goal is to bring together individuals who might not normally connect at such a large event as the SHRM Annual Conference in hopes that they broaden their professional and personal exposure to new ideas, new ways of seeing the world of HR, and to new people,” she said.

Representatives from several groups were present, including leaders from the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR), a cosponsor of the event, as well as SHRM’s Membership Advisory Council (MAC), a group that liaises between SHRM’s volunteer leaders and board of directors, and other members of the SHRM Board of Directors and SHRM staff.

NAAAHR and another co-sponsor of the event, the HR Certification Institute, donated door prizes. SHRM donated a registration for the SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition, to be held Oct. 24-26, 2011, in Washington, D.C.

Attendees heard from SHRM President and CEO Henry G. (Hank) Jackson and SHRM Board Chair Jose A. Berrios during the event,and were led through a networking assignment by noted speaker, author and networking guru George C. Fraser.

Fraser, bestselling author of Click: Ten Truths to Building Extraordinary Relationships (McGraw-Hill, 2007) and other books on networking and business, asked attendees to create and deliver an elevator speech that explained who they are, where they are from, what they do, how they add value and how they prove their value. Once these were created, each participant had to deliver his or her speech to someone in the room. Two participants were asked to present their speeches to the nearly 350 guests present.

“The room was absolutely abuzz as people were talking and trying to create their speeches,” said Sandy L. Boost, SPHR, CAE, business manager for SHRM Member Services and a coordinator of the event. “It was very effective.”

“Our professional networks need to be as diverse as the world in which we live,” Green said. Thus, the annual networking event seeks to provide HR professionals with help building a diverse and inclusive network of professionals they can “tap into for information, resources or just to lend a listening ear,” she added.

SHRM Diversity Engagement Groups

Efforts like the networking event and the recently formed Diversity Engagement Groups (DEGs) provide SHRM with opportunities to “lend a listening ear” to members and to seek ways to meet member needs for information and professional growth better.

The DEGs, made up of representatives from SHRM’s African American and Latino membership, were formed in late 2010, and began meeting virtually in 2011. The SHRM Annual Conference in Las Vegas provided the first opportunity for a face-to-face meeting of group members.​

​While SHRM membership is increasing overall, the number of members who identify as Latino or black is decreasing, according to Martha Ramirez, SPHR, SHRM’s director of the Western Region and North Central Field Services Director. The two groups will explore ways in which SHRM can meet their needs better. Their stated purpose is to “serve as the voice of the respective member community in the planning process to identify, prioritize and develop recommendations for the SHRM Diversity Engagement Strategy for SHRM members of color.”

Less than a dozen members will serve on each DEG for a one-year term with an option for a one-year renewal. To build the groups, Ramirez and the member engagement team reviewed SHRM’s membership list and came up with a list of senior-level, certified HR professionals who identified as Latino or black.

“We wanted some fresh voices,” she said. “Once invited, they had to apply and tell us why they wanted to be a part of it.”

The careful selection process has paid off, according to Ramirez: “They’ve been a fantastic group; they’ve been very passionate.”

Between conference calls, DEG members maintain contact with one another through SHRM Connect, the social networking site, where Ramirez has set up two groups and facilitates discussions. “Members at large are seeing the groups and are asking to be invited in,” she noted. “I think there’s a need to create some public groups.”

Ramirez described 2011 as “a pilot year” for the DEGs and said the member engagement team hopes to add groups representing other populations and to host meet ups in big cities. “We want to make sure that we are engaging HR professionals in particular communities,” she said. “We’ll see where it takes us.”

Questions or comments about SHRM’s diversity networking efforts can be directed to

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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