Job Assistance, Racial Healing Among Pinnacle Award-Winning Initiatives

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek November 18, 2020
2020 Pinnacle Awards

​Leading through the racial reckoning sweeping across the country, establishing a library outreach program, and uniting schools, employers and HR leaders were among the innovative programs singled out for 2020 Pinnacle Awards during the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM's) virtual Volunteer Leaders' Business Meeting (VLBM) on Nov. 18.

Nine chapters and three state councils received the highest honor that SHRM bestows on its affiliates. This year, recipients were from California, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Virginia. Illinois had triple wins—two chapters and the state council each won a Pinnacle Award. Kentucky was represented twice, with its state council and one of its chapters receiving awards.  

Winners were selected from 77 applications, with internal and external judges evaluating the merits of the programs on whether they served the HR profession, enhanced the SHRM community or advanced the HR profession. The prize included $1,000 and a crystal plaque. 

Winning programs also were showcased during a general session at the event, receiving special recognition from Mike Aitken, SHRM's senior vice president of membership. Paychex Inc. sponsored the award, which SHRM created in 1991.

[SHRM members-only chapter and council support: SHRM's Volunteer Leader Resource Center

Serving the HR Profession

The winners are:
Small ChapterTri-State SHRM (Texas)
"Advancing Local HR Professionals." In February 2018, the chapter initiated a daylong strategic planning training session facilitated by a SHRM field services director. More than 30 members participated in brainstorming; strategic planning training; a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis; and other goal-creating tasks for the chapter to engage in during the next three to five years. As part of the community partnership objective of the resulting strategic plan, each chapter board member taught a session of the SHRM Essentials of Human Resources course to 25 business leaders.

Medium ChapterHRA of Greater Oak Brook (Illinois) 
"HRA of Greater Oak Brook Mentoring Program." This program provides skills development, certification and professional learning opportunities to emerging and seasoned HR leaders. A survey of its member base showed the chapter consisted of a mix of knowledgeable HR professionals looking to give back to new members of the profession, as well as students and young practitioners. HRA created a structured program that matched 25 pairs of mentors and mentees over a nine-month period. The chapter hosted two "meet-up" events spaced three months apart that focused on certification, personal HR branding and skills development in areas such as recruiting.

MegaChicago SHRM (Illinois) 
"Leading Through a Racial Crisis." This five-part virtual, interactive, live educational series was designed to provide support, education and healing after the killing of a Black man, George Floyd Jr., at the hands of a white police officer raised demands for racial equity. The program created a safe space for Black leaders to share their professional and personal stories and insights. Among the panelists: the vice president for state funding at Each for America, the vice president of global cereal for the Kellogg Co. and the customer success manager at LinkedIn.

The program, the chapter said in its application, "paved the way for a conversation on allyship and what HR can and should do to respond to racism and inequity in the workplace." The chapter donated all proceeds from the nominal registration fee to a local not-for-profit social justice organization for underprivileged youth.

State CouncilCalifornia State Council of SHRM 
"CalSHRM Education Series." This initiative was created to develop and implement onsite and virtual classes for SHRM education programs and certification exam preparation and to develop and implement a Volunteer Leadership Summit for SHRM affiliate volunteer leaders. The series was a response to increased demand by SHRM and non-SHRM members for information about the SHRM CP/SHRM-SCP certification exam preparation courses and SHRM Specialty Credentials, including California Law HR, HR Department of One, People Analytics and Inclusive Workplace Culture.

Enhancing the SHRM Community 

The winners are:
Small ChapterSussex-Warren Human Resource Management Association (New Jersey) 
"To Be or Not to Be, that WAS the Question. It's Not Anymore!" This was the rallying cry of a core team of chapter leaders whose chapter seemed to be slowly dissolving as dedicated board members became burned out from years of service and membership dipped from 85 members to 67 in 2018. Program attendance was as low as eight people, most of whom were board members.

The chapter rebranded and remarketed itself with a more welcoming and modern look across all forms of communication. It embraced social media, reconstituted its PayPal account to make registration easier, increased sponsorships, cultivated partnerships to offer deep discounts on certification preparation courses, held a board retreat, changed its fiscal year to match that of SHRM's and most chapters', and rewrote its by-laws to eliminate a "second-class" membership level. The chapter's attendance has risen from eight to 45 attendees, and attendance of virtual programming has ranged from 15 to 22 members.

Medium ChapterPrince William SHRM Inc. (Virginia) 
"Resilience." The chapter doubled its monthly programming to provide more options for members to earn recertification credits and stopped charging for its programs. It diversified programming by adding speakers whose content related to current issues such as COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, and, by moving programming from mornings to lunchtime, it increased participation rates of its members and community leaders.

The chapter also shifted fundraising efforts to concentrate on the local community, such as a local company that made and donated more than 10,000 masks for health care professionals, and donated to the National Association of African Americans in HR in response to the death of George Floyd Jr.

MegaGreater Cincinnati Human Resources Association (Ohio) 
"Introduction of Cerkl Artificial Intelligence into GCHRA Chapter Communications." In July 2018, the chapter launched a first-of-its-kind member engagement tool through Cerkl. The new software platform automatically personalized the chapter's communication based on recipients' interests across all potential touch points—e-mail, Web and mobile—and allowed the chapter to abandon its static newsletter in favor of communicating via artificial intelligence. The technology also has allowed the chapter to disseminate virtual programming during the pandemic and provide data as to what content members consider most relevant.

State CouncilOregon SHRM 
"Fiscally and Financially Responsible HR Practices." The council has taken steps over the last three years to build enough financial reserves to weather future storms. It has funded its reserves by 80 percent in two years, and it expects its reserves to be fully funded by the end of 2020—two years earlier than intended. Its strategic financial planning has shaped council decisions such as what initiatives to support and how to understand its state conference expenses. The council began with a strategic planning session hosted by a SHRM field services director, who helped the organization lay out a three-to-five-year plan for obtaining enough reserves to cover any unforeseen financial issues.

Advancing the HR Profession

The winners are:
Small ChapterStateline SHRM (Illinois) 
"STEP (Stateline Transforming Employment Potential) Forward." Workshops offered through this program provided guidance and encouragement to job seekers with a criminal background and, in the process, helped open up a new pool of job candidates to hiring managers. The program consisted of three five-week certificate workshops for participants that included mentoring and career exploration, resume writing, goal setting and interviewing. There also was an employer workshop geared at reducing concerns employers may have for hiring those with criminal backgrounds and the benefits for doing so, such as the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

Large ChapterCharlotte Area SHRM (North Carolina)
"Library Outreach Program." The chapter partnered with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library, which noticed patrons who lacked Internet at home were coming to the library to search for and apply to jobs. These individuals need assistance with completing job applications, creating and revising resumes, and interviewing. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the chapter conducted 23 employment workshops in four underserved areas of the county, providing information to 390 people.

Mega ChapterLouisville SHRM (Kentucky)
"Better Workplaces Better World." This citywide, monthlong project surveyed Louisville's workforce on what benefits and elements of workplace culture matter most to them and how satisfied respondents are with both. Data was used to create an interactive dashboard and an in-depth analysis that employers can access. This program was created to help HR leaders and the community address challenges in retaining talent. The chapter partnered with the University of Louisville College of Education and Human Development to help design a scientific research survey.

State CouncilKentucky SHRM Council Inc.
"Bus to Business: Uniting Kentucky Schools, Employers and Human Resources Leaders." The statewide initiative was a partnership with the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center and the Kentucky Department of Education to show students, through seven video interviews, about different careers. Students heard about the pathways that different leaders from across the state took to arrive in the industries in which they work. Videos include a playlist for elementary school students and one for middle and high school students.

The VLBM concludes Nov. 20.




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