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​Helping companies improve manager training, expand the talent pool and maintain civility amid the divisive political environment are among the initiatives the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) will embrace in the coming year, according to SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP. Just as importantly, Taylor told the roughly 900 attendees at the 2019 SHRM Volunteer Leaders' Business Meeting this weekend, SHRM will continue to raise its profile with both federal and state legislatures as well as among C-suite leaders to shape workplace policy.

"Only one group is prepared to be the voice of the future of work," Taylor told the enthusiastic crowd on the last day of the meeting. SHRM chapter and state council leaders traveled from across the country to advocate on Capitol Hill, learn more about SHRM and get resources to help lead their organizations.

SHRM will increase advertising on national television and online as part of the strategy to amplify its voice, Taylor said. The recent TV commercials have shifted from spotlighting only HR to embracing business solutions—like building more-inclusive workplace cultures and closing the skills gap, a reflection of the expanded role SHRM is taking on the national stage. 

Taylor noted that when the CEO of McDonald's was fired for having a relationship with a colleague, reporters from CNN, the Financial Times and other media organizations called SHRM for comment. "We have become the trusted source," he said.

SHRM has been on a roll. It now has 310,000 members, a nearly 9 percent jump from two years ago. Revenue will hit a record $168.4 million this year.

Next year, SHRM will continue its effort to aid companies in hiring people often overlooked in the job market. This year, SHRM has stressed the importance of hiring the formerly incarcerated and offered tools to guide companies through that process.

Last month, the SHRM Foundation launched the Employing Abilities@Work initiative to boost employment of individuals with disabilities. That will continue in 2020. Taylor said the new year will also bring a program to fight the blatant ageism that's evident any time employers talk about their desire to hire bright, young workers—thus overlooking older individuals, despite the likelihood that older workers will remain the workplace longer.

"Ninety-year-olds are going to be needing career development," he joked.

Next year, SHRM will launch a new People Manager Qualification (PMQ), an evidence-based learning program for working professionals who have their first job supervising employees or need to improve their skills. He said HR professionals can better concentrate on driving business results if they aren't continuously having to solve issues that should be settled by managers.

The idea of a PMQ drew praise from conference attendees. Many said that companies often promote people to become managers because they excelled at their day-to-day job without considering their temperament or people skills. Those shortcomings are often compounded by a lack of training.

"So many managers don't know how to manage," said Sherry Cooke, a human resources consultant. She believes the PMQ will be especially helpful for smaller employers that don't have the time or budget for extensive in-house training. "They are usually just so focused on making money," she said.

Taylor also addressed the heated presidential election, which is already causing significant tension in the workplace. HR must play a role in maintaining a civil culture, he said.

According to research SHRM released earlier this month, nearly half of survey respondents have had a disagreement in the workplace over politics. A third said that their workplace isn't inclusive of differing political perspectives.

"There is going to be a focus on the election at work, and we have to get out in front of it," Taylor said, adding that it is crucial for employers to stay neutral. He admitted he wanted to take a ride on Air Force One when he was invited recently, but he knew it would cross the line from policy to politics. "We don't want to engage in politics," Taylor said.

Zack O'Connor, director of human resources at the Fort George Brewery + Public House in Astoria, Ore., said there haven't been any blow-ups about the presidential election among the company's politically diverse staff of about 150 people. However, he does worry that could change as the rhetoric becomes more heated. "It's something we need to think about," he said. "We have to maintain our value system and remind everyone that we have to share the country."


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