SHRM Atlanta: Get Ready For Great Speakers — and a Little Drama

What would the big June SHRM conference be without a little drama?

I had hoped that the Society for Human Resource Management’s Annual Conference and Exhibition this year in Atlanta (June 24-27) might be different from last year’s big bash given how that one in Las Vegas started without a new SHRM CEO as well as the prospects of a skirmish between the SHRM Board of Directors and the SHRM Members for Transparency group.

Fortunately, the drama that led off last year was quickly put to rest on the opening Sunday when SHRM announced a new CEO (former SHRM CFO Hank Jackson), and, the Board finally agreed to meet with the Transparency group to listen to their grievances. That cleared the way for the largest SHRM annual conference ever to go on without further incident.

Somehow, I don’t think that is going to be the case this year in Georgia.

Another skirmish with the Transparency group

That’s because before the 64th SHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition kicks off on June 24 at Atlanta’s World Congress Center, and before former Secretary of State Consoleezza Rice gets up to speak to the conference’s opening general session Sunday afternoon, the SHRM Members for Transparency group will have had a press conference to announce their latest plans in the ongoing fight with the SHRM Board of Directors. And, it doesn’t look pretty.

Last year, the big issue between SHRM Members for Transparency  — which consists of a number of respected former SHRM Board members, executives, and current SHRM members who have expressed concerns about the incumbent SHRM Board’s seeming lack of transparency and refusal to stand up and publicly explain what it is doing — and the SHRM Board, was the refusal of the Board to even meet with SMFT and hear what they had to say.

The SHRM Board, however, announced during last year’s Las Vegas conference that they would meet with the Transparency group as soon as possible, as SHRM general counsel Henry Hart said at the time. Getting together to talk is good, no?

Well, the first meeting that was supposed to take place as soon as possible didn’t happen until October, and a follow-up meeting didn’t happen until March.

With no more meetings scheduled, and no real progress apparent, the Transparency group decided in May to push ahead with a survey of SMFT group members because, “it has become apparent — as many of you suggested it would — that continuing to meet (with the SHRM Board)  is unlikely to be a successful means to achieving our goals.”

The Transparency group had planned a press conference next Sunday June 24 in Atlanta before SHRM’s opening general session, reportedly to announce the results of the survey and perhaps a slate of SMFT candidates to run for the SHRM Board in the next election. That press conference was scheduled for the Omni Hotel at Atlanta’s CNN Center, and most importantly, had been approved by SHRM given that the society controls a great deal of the city’s hotel space during the conference.

SHRM pulls permission for press conference

Well, scratch one press conference at the Omni Hotel.

SHRM decided, according to the Transparency group, to withdraw “their permission nine days after the contract had been signed and with only 10 days existing prior to our Press Conference.” The catering sales manager of the Omni Hotel sent a message to the SMFT group saying,

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The head planner with the SHRM convention was on vacation when this meeting was approved. The planner has emailed the manager of the convention and retracted the approval. Unfortunately, with further review they have decided that although the meeting is not a conflict with the hours, it is a conflict of interest to the SHRM conference. I am in the process of following up for you to see if you can directly speak with someone at SHRM to explain your meeting since we have no control over who is approved or not approved. SHRM has a hold on our space and they are not allowing us to move forward. I apologize for any inconvenience.”

The Transparency group “strenuously objected” to what the consider “SHRM management’s abrupt and unfair reneging on the agreement,” but they have gone on an rescheduled the SMFT press conference for 11:30 am Sunday morning at Ray’s in the City near the World Congress Center where the SHRM annual conference is being held.

As the Transparency group noted:

Obviously, the reference to any “conflict of interest” is little more than the SHRM leadership’s fears about what we will say at the Press Conference. It appears they will continue to do anything they can to keep us from getting our message about the lack of Board transparency to the membership.”

Great speakers, and another big TLNT party

What’s sad about all of this is that it detracts from HR’s biggest annual event and all that is going on at the SHRM annual conference.

Besides Condozeezza Rice, other speakers include author Malcolm Gladwell (Blink and the Tipping Point), business guru Jim Collins (author of Good to Great and Built to Last), and longtime former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw. It’s one of the best speaker lineups of any SHRM annual conference  I have ever attended.

And, although Atlanta is likely not to be the draw that Las Vegas was last year or in 2007 (yes, I don’t buy the line that other writers seem to have swallowed that this one will be bigger than either of those record-setting events), it still should be well attended and will have a pretty good crowd regardless.

Plus, there will be the 2nd annual TLNTup party Sunday night June 24 at STATS Restaurant & Bar in Atlanta. It should be as much fun as last year’s big bash we held in Las Vegas, so make sure you click here to sign-up if you haven’t done so already.

Yes, there will be lots of great things going on next week in Atlanta at the SHRM annual conference — even with all the sideline drama going on. If you’re not attending, make sure you check in with TLNT every day (June 24-27) because we’ll have a front row seat to all of it.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of 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, 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, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


3 Comments on “SHRM Atlanta: Get Ready For Great Speakers — and a Little Drama

    1. Laurie, I am sorry, only coffee, tea, soda and water.  SMFT does not have the deep pockets of SHRM and we are saving our resources for the “write in” campaign. Thanks for your interest.  We need importnat social networking people like you to help get the message OUT!

  1. This continues to be such a disappointing situation.  As SHRM continues to preach about ethics and the role of HR leaders within an organization, the SHRM leadership refuses to engage in an open dialog about valid concerns of its members.  How many corporate boards could take this stance with their shareholders and expect to survive?  Kudos to the leaders of SMFT for caring enough about our profession to take a stand!

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