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Why HR Needs to Lead with Advocacy

HR understands better than anyone how laws impact the real world of work today and tomorrow.

A man in a blue suit posing for a photo.
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP​

​Right now, Washington legislators and lobbyists are drafting proposals that will affect every American worker and family. HR professionals understand better than anyone how laws impact the real world of work today and tomorrow. That is why no major piece of U.S. legislation should be written without our say. 

Weighing in at the later stages of lawmaking isn’t enough. Neither is simply complying with the workplace laws we are handed. I submit to you that, in today’s rapidly evolving workplace, HR needs to lead with advocacy. This is our responsibility as a voice for workers and the organizations that employ them. The Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) nearly 300,000 members impact the lives and work of over 100 million people in the workforce. Make no mistake: Our profession can be a social force, capable of sparking monumental impact, not just incremental change.

As your professional Society, SHRM is prepared to speak unequivocally on today’s tough issues, including the scorching topic of sexual harassment. In January, I testified before the California State Legislature’s Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response. SHRM’s message—that culture always trumps compliance in preventing harassment—hit the mark, and I have been invited to share it with a wider audience at the 2018 National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit in Los Angeles this summer.

It’s great to be asked for our perspectives on the key issues of the day and of the future. But leading with advocacy means doing more—rolling up our sleeves and getting elbow-deep in the lawmaking process. This is how SHRM helped create the Workflex in the 21st Century Act (H.R. 4219), which is now making its way through the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. This is also how we should proceed on policymaking now underway on immigration, employer health plans, equal pay and more.

I’m looking forward to joining many of you this month at SHRM’s Employment Law & Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., where we will dig deeply into the legislative landscape and hear from some great speakers, including Victoria Lipnic, acting chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and political columnist Gloria Borger. 

I’m especially excited about the head-to-head session featuring former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. Leading with advocacy requires an openness to hearing opposing points of view and finding the commonalities that can get us to smart policy solutions. This is exactly the kind of lively, bipartisan debate we are proud to offer to our members. 

As leaders stake out their positions on major issues, so too will SHRM. HR’s voice matters too much to be muted in the conversations in Washington, statehouses and beyond. Join me as we shape the policies that will guide the future of work and, in turn, affect the lives of millions. Together, we can create better workplaces for a better world.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is SHRM's CEO.

Photograph by Delane Rouse for HR Magazine. 

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