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What earned them this reception? They happen to be SHRM members.
Wanting to hear “the voice of the member,” the Society’s chief U.S. membership officer, Pam Green, SPHR, facilitated the panel of HR professionals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. She kicked off the two-day event by asking the panelists to describe a typical day in the life of an HR professional. This was followed by a series of questions from the dozens of SHRM leaders and staff who filled a meeting room to converse with the members. Among the questions asked was one in particular that resonated with SHRM staff:
What can SHRM do to provide better service to you and your more than a quarter-million fellow members?
“We spent a significant amount of time on this question, because our members had a lot to tell us. And staff were taking notes,” said Green. “During breaks, staff lined up to speak with them one on one and to exchange contact information. I was so proud to be able to showcase our staff to our members. Our staff is terrific. They love the work they do in serving our members, and it showed.”
“When we first got there, none of us knew what to expect,” said member panelist Denise Green, director of Human Resources for the Concord Church in Dallas. But very soon, “we were very engaged in conversations. … It was a great opportunity,” she said.
“It was very insightful, very enlightening for me,” stated Phil Jackson, PHR, HR client relationship manager for UBS Fund Services (Cayman) Ltd., headquartered in Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands. “As an international member, sometimes you are not quite sure about how you can take advantage of the benefits and services that SHRM provides.”
He says he soon learned that “SHRM is a very progressive nonprofit organization, which surprised me a little.” Jackson—no relation to the famous basketball coach of the same name—“found it very promising” that SHRM is looking to expand in places such as India and is “focusing on the needs of its membership.”
Aseem Juneja, founder of executive search firm Ten Yards Advisors, had moved his operation from India to Philadelphia just days before talking with SHRM officials. “I was very happy to see such a committed organization that is working on promoting the HR profession,” he commented. “There is so much energy in the staff and motivation to work with members.”
Mike Letizia, PHR-CA, vice president of HR and security for the Community Bank of San Joaquin, based in Stockton, Calif., said he and his three fellow members “were flattered” to be asked to talk to SHRM management.
As the discussion ensued, “I was very surprised when I found all the passion” for HR and for the members among SHRM staff in attendance. “Obviously, that drive really makes a difference. It translates out to the members.”
“We gather information from our members through surveys and focus groups all the time, but the opportunity to engage with our members in person was very impactful,” said Laurie McIntosh, SPHR, SHRM’s director of member engagement. “For staff, it really personalized what HR practitioners face and how we are meeting and can meet their needs.”
Added McIntosh: “We appreciate the time commitment Denise, Phil, Mike and Aseem gave to participate in the ‘voice of the member’ panel. We will continue to engage our members through similar ‘voice of the member’ events to keep a pulse on what affects them and how we can assist.”
The visitors ranged from 10 years to less than one year of SHRM membership. Yet they offered relatively similar descriptions of what it’s like to work in HR in fairly small operations: putting out fires, one after another.
They had some suggestions for SHRM: Make the website easier to use. Send fewer e-mails, limiting them to those that are most important or relevant to them. Focus on California, India and emerging markets.
But their primary message was: Keep doing what you are doing.
Said Jackson: “SHRM really cares about its members.”
The energy in the room was enhanced by the input from Twitter users who were learning about the discussion through the popular social media site, with the assistance of SHRM Director of Public Affairs Amy Thompson and Public Affairs Manager Mary Kaylor. For example:
@ColinKershey: Really enjoyed the @SHRM panel tweets from the past two days. Very insightful.
@jefa @SHRM: I agree with many of the suggestions. Good ideas.
“Overall, our members seemed to enjoy participating in the member panel portion of the meeting through Twitter,” said Thompson. “We received several retweets and positive comments. This is a great example of how SHRM is using social media to connect with our members.”
Steve Bates is manager of online editorial content. He can be reached at
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