Another Presumptuous Bit of Unsolicited Advice to SHRM

Last week Gerry Crispin penned a blog post Advice to SHRM: Drop Barriers between members and non-members. He mentioned that it was a bit presumptuous to offer anyone public advice, but he also openly wondered about crowdsourcing advice to SHRM. As I was preparing a comment on his article two things became apparent: First of all, my reply was becoming almost as long as his entire post, and in addition I began to dangerously push the boundaries of his single issue design… to tear down barriers between members and non-members. (Click link above to see his main points… summarizing here would not do them justice). I shouldn’t stray too far, but several pet peeves of my own have previously made me wonder about the wisdom of a presumed dual class citizenship in the HR community.

While the need for a gold standard for Human Resources thought increases, the relevance of a private fraternity for HR may be wearing thin. Every year when I get the bill to renew my membership I revisit the logical thought processes of justifying the expenditure. I always re-up for another year, but I wonder if there will be a day that I will follow the exodus of others who don’t see value in paying for exclusive rights for things that are available through other means. When SHRM loses its shine as a gold standard, perhaps I will invest that money elsewhere. Realistically, non-members and former members are no less professional than those who pay dues, and in some cases their exclusion is to the detriment to the organization that has always been the major proponent for the profession.

  • In looking at how every node on a public network operates, there are those who are direct connections and others that are a bridge to those who have a more in-depth viewpoint. The best sources are not always the insiders who apparently know the secret handshake and have somehow been blessed with some sort of divine human resources omniscience. Backing off and looking at the tangled web of networked HR connections, SHRM membership is no longer a prerequisite for becoming an influential source of important information and in fact outsiders need to be solicited to strengthen the profession and add to the body of common HR knowledge.
  • SHRM’s decision in 2010 to threaten litigation over use of its logo opened my somewhat naïve eyes for the first time that there was a tempest in a teapot brewing between organizations that should have been collaborating on expanding ideas rather than protecting HR thought. The very concept that this is a real issue smacks of insane professional jealousy. Who can copyright human endeavors? Consciously deciding not to overreact to any turf wars, this still left a bad taste in my mouth. While I value the benefits of SHRM membership, in reality my own professional development continued to find that SHRM has often not been the best source of information and education for my career.   
  • For an organization that is a proponent for diversity, there appears to be a stark lack of room for opposing viewpoints. Perhaps I listen too much to some of the naysayers. There have been exemplary instances of SHRM proposing and adopting standards that generally become accepted as gospel. I also find standards prescribed by outside organizations to be just as relevant as the insiders. Where there are gaps in establishing standards for human resource practices, there does not seem to be a sense of urgency in arriving at solutions. Having watched SHRM grow into the current organization with 340 staff members, it seems to be a bureaucratic behemoth on one hand while being barely adequate from another perspective. This is barely critical mass for the size of the profession and to retain its relevance it will need to embrace all practitioners.  

Some things related to managing the human resource will always be subject to interpretation and considering all viewpoints is necessary to form a standard or best practice. Once those standards are determined, they do not become sacred scripture etched in stone but will change with every passing moment. Only an open network will capture the diverse nature of people and membership. No organization can be nimble enough to respond to all challenges and that fact translates to the crying need to open the doors to all comers.


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