… the HR Minion. Because even minions have opinions. And giggles.

The Ugly of #SHRM12

You had to know this was coming. I already talked about the good and the bad, now here’s the ugly.

Originally, I was planning on attending the SHRM Members for Transparency (SMFT) press meeting and writing a quick blurb on it in my conference wrap up. But after attending I felt compelled to say a little more.

Let me start by describing my relationship with SHRM. I am a former SHRM member with no plans to re-join, but I am current PHR certification holder. I have attended and will continue to attend SHRM events, I have spoken at local SHRM events, and I am lucky to have been given blogger press passes to SHRM National both this year and in past years.

And as far as this whole situation is concerned I don’t feel I have any skin in the game. But I am curious about how it will play out, even if I felt a little guilty when I walked into the SMFT meeting this Sunday.

Now, I don’t know really know all the details. I can’t say with certainty what SHRM board members have done or continue to do. I certainly haven’t spoken to anyone at SHRM about the groups concerns. John Hollon at TLNT has a much more detailed reporting of the press meeting here.

All I can give you are my impressions of the meeting.

Here we go:
First of all, it is clear the SMFT members are very passionate about the SHRM organization and clearly feel that it is headed in a bad direction. They genuinely want to work with SHRM on addressing their concerns and are deeply hurt about how they have been treated.

Second, if true, their accusations of misconduct are quite concerning.There are accusations of conflicts of interest, inappropriate compensation for board members, lack of accountability, lack of transparency, and even retaliation. If true, this violates the very principals that SHRM stands for. And that’s not cool.

Third, I feel that their latest strategy to elicit change in the board is, to be blunt, a little short sighted and naive. Why would I say that?

As announced at the SMFT meeting, the group will be putting forth up to 6 write in candidates for the upcoming SHRM board election. The goal is to get their members elected to the SHRM board in an effort to be better able to influence its direction and to get a better grasp of its inner workings.

On the surface, this makes sense. However, even assuming that they get all 6 members elected, even though they are incredibly limited in how they get the word out about these candidates, they will not have a majority and cannot push their changes through. To that, their hope is that even if one write in candidate is elected, they will be able to influence the other board members to see reason.

It is this which I consider both naive and short sighted. If the SHRM board has already decided that they will do what they want, be as secretive as they want, and have already retaliated, they have gone past thee point of “being reasoned with”. The lines have already been drawn.

Frankly, if the SMFT group really has a problem with how things are going, they need to start playing the long game. They need to figure out how far they want to takes this and what exactly they are willing to do. What are their contingency plans if the elections don’t work out and if the SHRM board ignores their attempts at open discussion? If they are looking that far ahead, then they are playing it close to the chest.

I left the meeting with a lot of unanswered questions; questions that I don’t think they could have answered. I hope that SMFT members find some answers for themselves and find a satisfactory resolution to their concerns. I truly do. I hope that somehow the SHRM board and the SMFT group can get together and address these issues. I also think the way SHRM handles this going forward will end up defining SHRM as an organization. I’m curious on how this will play out and you should be too.

5 Responses | Add your Own

  • 1 Dave "TheHRCzar" Ryan :

    Shauna great post and thanks for attending the SMFT meeting. I have been watching this from the sidelines for more than a year. I can’t tell for sure but it looks like “old guard” sour grapes to me.

    Thanks for the insight and it was great to see you in Atlanta!

  • 2 Shauna :

    Dave- Yeah, I’ve heard the same response from others. Not sure how this will all play out, but it is bound to be interesting. Great to see you too!

  • 3 Susan Warner, J.D., SPHR :

    We truly appreciate your taking the time to attend our press conference last month and, even more, your good wishes in the informative blurb you wrote regarding the SMFT.
    I did want to fill you in a bit more on our “long game” because we’ve been playing it any way but “close to the chest” and hope that you’ll continue to be curious about how this turns out. You can help us to continue to be transparent in our efforts to create positive change in SHRM’s direction.
    Many of those making up SMFT have been genuinely been trying to work with the SHRM Board to change these issues since they first began to occur in 2005, mostly as individuals informing the SHRM Board of our concerns. After years of trying that, in 2010 we joined together to form the SMFT. Our kickoff included identifying and including almost 50 of the current and former SHRM leaders who were concerned about the same issues and willing to support our efforts to create the needed changes.

    That accomplished, the next step in our long-range plan was to do all that we could to find a satisfactory resolution to our concerns. The action steps for this aspect of our plan included approaching the SHRM Board to meet with us and discuss our concerns, as well as consider our suggested solutions. Unfortunately, we were delayed for the past 12 months when the Board finally agreed to talk.

    The first meeting did accomplish some good and we believed the Board better understood what the issues were. The Board also recognized that we not only had some merit on our side but the determination to pursue them in a positive way. Surprisingly, instead of continuing to work through the issues with us, they decided that they wanted to stop the meetings. When we objected to their reneging on the promise of a second meeting, they acquiesced but held one final meeting, with little accomplished. Therefore, there were only a total of two meetings in twelve months.

    It was then that we realized that the SHRM Board had ” …gone past the point of ‘being reasoned with’… “. Under the circumstances SMFT no longer had an interest in meeting with the current SHRM Board, since they had already thwarted our attempts at open discussion.

    Thus, the elections are actually the third quarter of our contingency plans. We honestly believe that, with assistance from experts like you we will be able to get, if not all, most of our six candidates elected. We have had a good response from our survey of members who understand the issues and are willing to vote this time, even though only 5% of greater than 200,000 eligible voting members voted in 2011. True, lacking a majority on the Board, we would not be able to “force or mandate” change, even if we wanted to, which we do not. However, with professional skills and our SHRM experience and knowledge we are confident we can work cooperatively with the 2013 SHRM Board members and influence a t least some of the board members.
    We are counting on experts like you to help us get the word out – about our candidates, our goals, and our progress as we try to reinforce the principles for which SHRM stands. We sincerely hope that you will continue to do so; without even a tiny bit of guilt this time. I think you are also correct that ” … the way SHRM handles this going forward will end up defining SHRM as an organization.”
    Thanks again for the great blurb.

  • 4 Susan Warner, J.D., SPHR :

    Hi, Dave – Sorry you “can’t tell”, so I want to assure you it is not “old guard sour grapes”. If anything, though many of us are “older” – I believe that only a very few – if any – are “sour grapes”. Most of us love SHRM. Many of us still have excellent relationships with and are very involved in SHRM at various levels. I am the Founder and Board Member of SEPA SHRM (a 425+ 100% SHRM National Chapter) and have served in many volunteer positions in SHRM. I love the organization, the staff, and the Learning System, which I have been teaching for almost 2 decades. The truth is that it makes all of us very sad -and for some of us is very “scary” — to find ourselves in the position of having to publicly criticize the Organization we have held so dear. I invite you to touch base with me directly on Linked in if you’d like to learn more. Then we can connect more directly if you wish. I do hope you’ll touch base with me.

  • 5 Michael R. Losey, SPHR, CAE :

    Thanks Susan Warner, who I know very well and is one of the most dedicated SHRM members I have ever known. Yes, our major problem is people not looking at the facts. HR professionals should know to look for the facts before taking action or, in this case, make public statements.

    Before being critical of those who are attempting to protect the interests of all SHRM members, read the SMFT Position Paper on all of our issues. You can find it at our website at http://www.shrmmembersfortransparency.com.

    I doubt you will feel that nonprofit board members like SHRM should be paid as much as $35,000 a year for only 4 one day board meeting and also be entitled to UNRESTRICTED First or Business Class travel when the rest of us ride “in the back.” I am surprised that any SHRM member would believe that it is “OK” for the Board to take one year to find a new CEO, a job that pays greater than one-half million a year and fail! Also, they not only failed to find a replacement but appointed SHRM’s CFO, a non-HR professional to head up our Society and constructively informing everyone it is OK to subordinate HR to Finance. Then too, do you think it is OK for only 38% of the Board to be HRCI certified. Is it OK that the current Chair of the Board is NOT HRCI certified, — the first time this has ever happened since the HRCI was established.

    And that is only the tip of the iceberg. As a former SHRM President & CEO, and a certified association executive, I can assure you things are not right.

    Members should study these issues, including you who have obviously not done so. All we ask is that members study the issues, and if you disagree with us, fine.

    Mike Losey