Dallas talks, and SHRM listens

By Beth McConnell Sep 7, 2006
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DALLAS—Members of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) gathered here Sept. 7 to hear about SHRM’s current projects and future goals and to tell SHRM leaders what programs they like—and where the Society can improve.

After a cocktail and networking hour, the SHRM members—national and chapter members from the Dallas metropolitan region—heard a presentation from Susan R. Meisinger, SPHR, president and CEO of SHRM. (Click here to listen to sound bites from the presentation). She brought them up to date on SHRM’s efforts to fulfill its mission to serve the professional and advance the profession. The Town Hall meeting was the first in a series of events planned around the country for SHRM leaders to talk about what the Society is doing and to get feedback from members.

Meisinger offered examples of SHRM initiatives, including:

The Business Literacy for HR Professionals book series developed by SHRM and Harvard Business School Press.

    • The new State Workplace Law page on SHRM Online.

    • Public Sector Certificate Program, introduced at the 2006 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

    • The SHRM Human Resource Curriculum Template and Guidebook, to develop minimum curriculum requirements for undergraduate and graduate HR programs. “To be fully recognized [as a profession and strategic business partner] … we need a consistency in education [across the colleges],” Meisinger said.

    • Funded research for The New American Workplace book by Jim O’Toole and Ed Lawler.

    • The internationalization strategy for China, India and Canada. These countries were chosen for strategic reasons, Meisinger said: Canada, because SHRM has a large concentration of members there; India, for its growing needs for HR as its businesses expand; and China, for its early development into a market economy.

    • The SHRM/Rutgers University Leading Indicator of National Employment (LINE), an employment index that SHRM releases monthly as a way to communicate with business leaders and alert them to important HR-related trends. Through LINE, said Meisinger, “The business community can see our name on a regular basis.”

    CEO Exchange, a PBS television show that SHRM sponsors. The past season’s shows included conversations between the CEOs of Starbucks and Nordstrom as well as the leaders of Valero Energy Corp. and Southwest Airlines.

    • An alliance with CNBC to encourage coverage of HR issues.

    • SHRM’s new awards, the Human Capital Leadership awards, the four winners of which will be announced at the upcoming Strategic HR Conference in Phoenix.

    • Legislative and regulatory activities, including lobbying for initiatives in the recently passed Pension Protection Act to encourage automatic enrollment in 401(k) programs and protection for employers who give employees education on investing. Meisinger told the audience that she was proud of the fact than when SHRM representatives go to Capitol Hill to lobby, they promote issue positions that SHRM members have asked for and that the SHRM Board of Directors has approved.

In addition, Meisinger said that SHRM wants to improve its current member retention rate of about 79 percent, to increase the number of unique users of the Information Center and SHRM Online, and to take care of the organization’s finances. “We’re doing fine,” Meisinger said, noting that SHRM has substantial net assets.

She gave updates on two SHRM affiliates, the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) and the SHRM Foundation. HRCI will test 20,000 HR professionals this year, Meisinger said, and it counts 87,000 currently certified professionals. The Foundation raised $44,000 at its first silent auction, held in conjunction with the 2006 Annual Conference, and it will release a DVD on ethics, filmed at Lockheed Martin headquarters.

Tough questions sought

At the beginning of the Town Hall meeting, SHRM Board member Mary Cheddie, SPHR, encouraged the audience to prepare hard questions for the SHRM staff. Attendees met her challenge during the question-and-answer session.

They asked Meisinger’s opinion on employee satisfaction vs. employee engagement, to which she replied that she believed that engagement was the measure employers should try to boost. Another attendee asked for her opinion of proposed immigration reform; she said reform likely would not pass until after the mid-term elections, and then the nature of reform would depend on the makeup of the House of Representatives. Earlier in the summer, the House passed a conservative measure, Meisinger noted, while the Senate passed a more moderate version.

An attendee asked if SHRM had plans to expand into countries other than China, India and Canada, and the answer was, “not in a focused way.” SHRM will market its products across borders, Meisinger said, but it has not yet started tailoring products to specific countries.

Brian Glade, SPHR, GPHR, vice president of international programs for SHRM, said members will start encountering more languages, such as Korean and Spanish, on the SHRM web site. However, he said, SHRM does not have any plans to compete with national HR organizations in other countries for members.

Representing the range of interest within the membership, attendees asked about prospects for more strategic and executive education, as well as professional development for Generation X and Generation Y HR practitioners. Meisinger noted that the SHRM Annual Conference provided a wide range of presentations, from Masters Series programs for high-level HR leaders to basics such as complying with family leave, age discrimination and workers’ compensation laws and regulations.

When attendees asked about more specific information within certain industries or for consultants, Meisinger said that SHRM will focus on its core competency—human resources—and “not try to be all things to all people.” So, for example, consultants can use the SHRM listing service and take advantage of the Consultants Focus Area, but SHRM will not provide guidance on how consultants should run their businesses.

Audience members took some time to talk on their own about SHRM’s successes, its efforts to fulfill its mission, and what it could do better. Following are some of their commendations and critiques:

    • More business-oriented education is needed.

    • More resources for small businesses on the web site would be good for companies with one or no HR practitioners.

    • The amount of education offered by SHRM and the resources on the SHRM web site were praised, though some resources, such as white papers and some policies, are dated and should be reviewed.

    • Use technology more—more podcasts, webcasts and RSS feeds. Several attendees asked for a way to personalize the web site so that they could more easily find the resources they often search for.

    • Mentor programs for new members and practitioners were called for, as well as a way to make internships more available to students and interns at members’ companies.

    • More senior-level courses and more information on global HR issues were suggested..

The next SHRM Town Hall meeting was scheduled to take place Sept. 8 in Birmingham, Ala., followed by meetings in Providence, R.I., on Nov. 1; Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 15; and Los Angeles on Nov. 16.

Beth McConnell is associate editor for HR News . She can be reached at emcconnell@shrm.org

Related articles:

Sound bites from Sue Meisinger’s presentation

SHRM tours country for member input, information, HR News, Aug. 18, 2006.

For the latest HR-related business and government news, go daily to www.shrm.org/hrnews

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