What Went Down When the SHRM Board Met the Transparency Group

From the HR blog at TLNT.
From the HR blog at TLNT.

See update below.

It’s been more than a week since the long-awaited meeting between leaders of the SHRM Members for Transparency group and a select group of four members of the SHRM Board of Directors. How did they do in bridging their differences in Chicago, anyway?

If you closely peruse the statement released late Friday from the SMFT leadership, it’s pretty hard to tell.

Here’s the crux of it from the Transparency Group’s David Hutchins (former SHRM Board Chair in 2003-2004), who was part of the group meeting at the O’Hare Airport Hilton:

The meeting was conducted in an environment of mutual respect and compassionate candor. Representatives of the SHRM Board and the representatives from SMFT all appreciated the value of getting together to discuss the issues of concern. It is valuable to have input from the former Chairs who have been very dedicated over the years.

It was a productive discussion that both parties look forward to continuing. As anticipated, in our face-to-face meeting, everyone learned more and now better understands the positions of the other side. This will assist both parties as they reconsider their positions and prepare for additional discussions.

We touched on all the major issues, focusing on strategic direction, transparency and communication. The SHRM Board members present found the information invaluable.

At the end of the session we committed to moving forward together.”

A better sense of what happened

So, what does this all mean? It’s impossible to tell from this statement because there are no specifics and it says very little — except it is absent some of the more adversarial tone that has characterized previous statements.

Clearly, the change in tone is not an accident.

But, a second statement released Saturday from Hutchins and the Transparency Group actually revealed much more about what was discussed and how it went in Chicago (you can read about what the SMFT group has been upset about here). Here are the highlights:

  • There have been changes made in the balloting process for the 2012 SHRM Board of Directors. From Hutchins of SMFT: “That issue was discussed at the (Chicago) meeting, but balloting plans were already finalized by the Board. We have examined the ballot package presented and are pleased to see that several changes have been implemented, including most of the changes we had previously requested. The key change to the ballot is that there are now the same number of write-in opportunities as there are Board nominated candidates. This is in contrast to the previous ballot, in which there was only one write-in opportunity.”
  • More HR professionals have been nominated for the open Board positions. From Hutchins: “Three SHRM members/HR professionals have been nominated for the Board. Two of them are HCRI-certified, and the other has a Master’s Degree in HR. The Board has also returned to a “staggered” board term approach. We had recommended all of these changes.”
  • The Transparency group is encouraged by the person designated as the next SHRM Board chair. From Hutchins: “As noted on the ballot, the Chair Designate nominee, Bette Francis (editor’s note: she was one of the current SHRM Board members meeting with SMFT in Chicago), is an HR practitioner, a longtime SHRM volunteer, and is HRCI-certified. We believe she will have a terrific impact on the Society.”
  • SMFT strongly objects to having two marketing professionals nominated to the Board, because it will result in the lowest percentage of HR pros, ever, on the SHRM Board of Directors.. From Hutchins: “We have questioned the Board’s decision to nominate two marketing professionals, My-Chan Nguyen, CPA, and Jorge Consuegra, to the Board, rather than hiring such expertise on a consulting basis as needed. Our questions are rooted first in the desire to have these two Board seats filled with HR professionals. If the current slate of candidates is elected as proposed, it will result in the lowest percentage of HR professionals ever on the SHRM Board of Directors (eight of 13 Board members, or 62%). Secondly, we believe that an appropriate on-going independent consulting arrangement would likely yield more consistent results than Board member expertise primarily shared and utilized in regard to four meetings per year, the Board’s current meeting frequency.”
  • The Transparency group recommends that SHRM members vote ONLY for HR professionals for the SHRM Board. From Hutchins: “After reviewing the entire slate of candidates, we recommend that you vote to approve all HR professional candidates, and use your own judgment on casting your votes for the remaining candidates. Failing to vote for any candidates will result in those candidates garnering fewer votes. Please be aware that this will not result in keeping any candidates from being elected, since the Board seats will go to candidates receiving the most votes. Without alternative write-in candidates to oppose some candidates, all candidates on the slate will be elected, even if only a few ballots are cast. However, voting selectively will send a message to the Board that the voting membership prefers a larger percentage of the Board be comprised of HR professionals.”
  • In the spirit of reconciliation, SMFT has decided not to offer alternative candidates for election to the SHRM Board. From Hutchins: “Because we hope to continue the dialogue between our Past Chair SMFT representatives and the SHRM Board to make further progress on meaningful change around our key issues of concern, we are not presenting alternative SMFT write-in candidates for the 2012 election. As a result of the October 5 meeting, the change to the ballot format, the three HR professionals on the current slate, and the nomination of Bette Francis, SPHR, as Chair Designate, we have confidence that our relationship with the SHRM Board will be positive and productive going forward. Although the proposed slate does not meet our desired level of HR professional representation, our endorsement of the majority of the proposed candidates is a demonstration of SMFT’s faith in that future relationship.”

Clearly, the second Hutchins missive shows that a lot more happened in Chicago than was indicated in his initial statement. It also shows some of the impact that SMFT has already had on the SHRM Board, and, the hopefulness they have for the future when Bette Francis (who they note is HRCI-certified) replaces Jose Berrios (who, as many have pointed out, is not) as the next Board chair.

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But there’s one more thing: as positive as the Chicago meeting seems to have been, Hutchins made it clear in his statement that the Transparency group will not stop pushing for Board reforms — and that they reserve the right to take more serious action if that doesn’t happen. He wrote:

Should our relationship with the SHRM Board fail to result in meaningful change over the months ahead, we will be prepared to pursue other strategies to achieve our goals. In the interim, we will continue to keep you informed of our progress with as much speed as possible.”


UPDATE:  As if there hasn’t been enough change the past few years in SHRM’s leadership staff, CEO Hank Jackson sent this to his staff Friday:

This is a brief note to let you know that Janet Parker has resigned as senior vice president for Membership, effective November 1, 2011.  Janet is moving back to her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, to accept a timely opportunity with her former employer, Regions Bank. She will assume an executive human resource position.

Prior to joining SHRM as an employee, Janet has served in various volunteer leader roles since 1982, and is a former chair of the SHRM Board.  I know that many of you know Janet personally and will want to extend her a hearty congratulations in her new role. Please join me in thanking her for her most valuable service to SHRM.  Janet indicated that although the decision to originally leave Regions Bank was a tough one, the decision to now leave SHRM was an even harder one.

Janet will be sorely missed.”

According to one knowledgeable observer of SHRM, with the resignation of Parker, who was formerly SHRM’s COO as well as Global Membership Officer (and previously a SHRM Board chair), every member of the U.S.-based SHRM executive staff (with the exception of Henry Hart, SHRM’s General Counsel) who used to work under former SHRM CEO Lon O’Neil has either been terminated or quit.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


1 Comment on “What Went Down When the SHRM Board Met the Transparency Group

  1. Thanks for providing this update.   I have been wondering about the outcome but did not know who to go to for results.

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