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Celebrating HR Professionals on International Human Resources Day

A group of people standing in front of a white background.

​May 20 is the fourth annual World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA) International Human Resources Day. The observance honors all the hardworking HR professionals worldwide who make HR a critical function across organizations and industries. 

"Many thanks to my colleagues whose leadership and vision brought International HR Day to life in 2019. Little did we know what challenges awaited the world over the next few years. Through it all, HR delivered with resilience, resourcefulness and dedication," said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of SHRM. (Taylor is also the WFPMA delegate for the U.S. and the immediate past president of the North American Human Resource Management Association.) He continued, "With much of that calamity behind us, we look forward to the horizon in keeping with the 2023 International HR Day theme: 'Shaping the New Future.' "

In recognition of International HR Day, SHRM Online is recognizing and celebrating the impact of HR professionals and their journeys into the field.

Below, four HR professionals share their "why" for working in HR and how their role is shaping the lives of others.

Mary Jo Swearingen, SHRM-CP, SHRM Emerging Professional Advisory Council Member, HR Business Partner, LBMC Employment Partners

"People are businesses' most impactful asset. HR is advocating for strategic initiatives that recognize ever-changing human needs and boost business productivity. This wave of trusted and educated HR professionals is driving important conversations in the workplace related to operations and the betterment of the workplace for all.

"I stumbled into the HR program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Working in HR has developed a higher level of balanced empathy in how I conduct myself. I love connecting with other HR professionals to hear what a career in HR means to them."

Liz Sheffield, SHRM-CP, Content Marketing Manager, PayScale

"I started my career 20 years ago as an HR coordinator for Starbucks. That beginning led to work in training and development, ethics and compliance, and now writing content for HR professionals. This career path in HR has allowed me to focus on engaging and empowering people; for that, I'm grateful.

"There's so much changing in the world of work today. I know we've been saying that for years, but there's no denying we are at a pivotal time. From remote work opportunities to pay transparency regulations to mental health in the workplace, HR is at the heart of how organizations operate—and how they succeed."

Heather Schechter, SHRM-SCP, APR, Chief Strategy Officer, Sunrise Management & Consulting

"People are the key to success for any organization providing a service. HR is critical to ensuring the organization treats employees with respect and care in its processes, communications, training, benefits and employee relations. By giving employees a better workplace, they have the opportunity to thrive, allowing organizations to prosper and do their best work, and we all benefit.

"I studied history in college, emphasizing communications and research. Those skills translated to working in public relations at agencies in New York City. Then I became a high school social studies teacher and a coach. When I returned to public relations, I was asked to bring this same focus on communications and engagement to our workforce. Now I am responsible for the human resources function in our growing company. I am passionate about making each employee feel valued and providing a solid base to grow in their career."

Lauren Winans, CEO and Principal HR Consultant, Next Level Benefits

"HR is the backbone of every organization. HR simultaneously supports employees and the business, making tough calls and providing recommendations that drive the organization forward. HR has a hand in all things people—and isn't that what makes up an organization? No people, no company.

"I found HR by accident or by fate; both seem appropriate! I've always enjoyed observing the inner workings of a business, how deals are made, how companies find leaders, how leaders build empires, and how employees grow and develop. From the seats of an HR department, you are so involved in many aspects of the business that you have no choice but to learn on your feet through each unique, crazy, wild experience. I love the idea of giving a voice to the employee population while supporting the mission of the business itself."

Spreading the Word

"As HR practitioners," Taylor said, "we understand that the future of work is intrinsically linked to people, the human resource. There will be continuous technological advancements. However, technology still leverages and amplifies human potential. On this International HR Day, I challenge each of you to join us in driving change in every corner of the globe. We must engage stakeholders across the spectrum to make better workplaces and a better world."

Katie Navarra is a freelance writer in New York state.


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