SHRM CEO, Transparency Group Battle For Hearts and Minds of State Leaders

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

Here’s a question I would love the SHRM Board of Directors to answer: why does the Board seem to go out of its way to avoid standing up and publicly defending its actions that have come under such scrutiny (and criticism) from the group SHRM Members for Transparency, and others?

Reasonable people can disagree on things, of course, and so it is with actions the SHRM Board has taken to increase its own compensation, enhance perks for Board members, and break with a number of longstanding policies of previous SHRM Boards.

One would think that the SHRM Board of Directors would want to be crystal clear about what they are doing, and why. One would also think that the Board would react to the dissent within the SHRM ranks about recent Board actions by going overboard and working overtime to stand up and explain the reasoning, the thought process, and the nature of the debate that led to the decisions in question.

A lapse in posting board minutes?

Yes, one would think that a not-for-profit organization with 250,000 members and a tax exempt status would feel a greater obligation to go the extra mile to be open and excessively transparent about what they are doing, but that doesn’t seem to be what the SHRM Board is about these days.

Although there are some comments in defense of the Board’s actions this week from interim SHRM CEO Henry Jackson in a story in Human Resource Executive titled Strife at SHRM, nowhere in the story is there any in-depth discussion of just what the SHRM Board was talking about and thinking about as it debated these contentious issues. No current SHRM Board members — including current Chair Jose Berrios or past Chairman Robb Van Cleave — are quoted. And, the issue of Board transparency now seems to have been reduced to simply keeping up with the bare minimum expectation of posting summaries of the Board meetings on the SHRM website.

“There was a lapse in posting the minutes when we were undergoing a strategic review,” Jackson told Human Resource Executive, “and in hindsight, that shouldn’t have happened.”

That’s true enough, but the regular and timely posting of of Board meeting summaries was one of the more minor concerns raised by critics.

Letter details a back and forth struggle

In fact, the gulf between what the SHRM Board says it has done to be open and transparent, and what it has actually done in that regard, seems to be growing larger. And if you need proof of that, just read the latest in the back and forth struggle between SHRM and the SHRM Members for Transparency group for the hearts and minds of SHRM’s state leaders.

Article Continues Below

Attached is a copy of a letter from SHRM interim CEO Henry Jackson sent Feb 17 to SHRM State Council leaders concerning a letter the Transparency group sent to those same State Council leaders that detailed what SHRM Members for Transparency wanted the SHRM Board of Directors to do.

In this letter from Jackson is a response from the Transparency group to every point that he makes. It is an interesting contrast, and it probably does as good a job as any in making clear just what the fundamental differences are between the Transparency group and the SHRM Board – and how far away both sides are from bridging that gap. It also offers far more insight and detail on what the SHRM Board is doing (or not doing, as the case may be) than you’ll find in the Human Resource Executive article.

Take a close look for yourself and see what you think.

TLNT is reaching out again and asking for comment by the SHRM Board or interim CEO Jackson on the Transparency Group comments in the letter below. The Board has opted not to respond to past requests for comment, or to answer specific questions, so stay tuned.

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.

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10 Comments on “SHRM CEO, Transparency Group Battle For Hearts and Minds of State Leaders

  1. The consistent, balanced and articulate coverage of this and other issues is much appreciated. TLNT was the first to offer insight into this story. The good news (and in some ways bad news) is it is picking up steam.

  2. As the past State Director of Texas, I am astounded that SHRM leadership continues to approach the issues presented by the SMFT group without a sense of urgency and lacks the desire to enter into any meaningful discussion with the members. The comments made by the Board/SHRM leadership to the state council directors in November 2010 left those in attendance with the distinct impression that SMFT was a group of disgruntled SHRM members and former employees, some who left SHRM’s employment under questionable circumstances, and who purported to speak for the membership at large. However, after reviewing the issues raised by SMFT and realizing the caliber and the credentials of this group, many of whom I have met and hold in the highest regard, I am extremely disappointed with how the SHRM Board and leadership has handeed this entire matter. This brings to mind the famous Thomas Huxley quote “It’s not who is right, but what is right, that is of importance.” Well, I think it’s time for the SHRM Board to do what is RIGHT!

    Tim Heup, SPHR
    Past State Director
    SHRM Texas State Council

  3. TLNT has been helpful in identifying what is really happening between the SHRM Board and those longtime senior members who are concerned about their Society’s direction. The simple story: The SHRM Members for Transparency was told that a recommendation would be made to the SHRM Board to permit them to present their concerns to the Board in an orderly and professional manner. That recommendation, we must assume, was rejected because the Board has refused to discuss in any way the issues that concern us and a growing number of SHRM members. The result — an appeal process that is not being followed, is unnecessarily disruptive to all parties and portrays not only SHRM in a poor light but our profession also. Working with the SHRM Board and their attorney has been like trying to negotiate a collective bargaining contract by email. IT CANNOT BE DONE! PEOPLE MUST MEET!

  4. This group is made up of a group of former SHRM leaders who long for the ‘good old days’ and who don’t understand what it takes to manage a large, complex business like the one that SHRM has become. Losey is a ego maniac who has nothing better to do than harass the board members. This group is pretty irrational and quite dated and represents exactly what’s wrong with the profession.

    1. I have edited this comment to remove the personal, anonymous, pejorative attack that was originally posted here. We want to allow for as broad and open a discussion as possible, but anonymous attacks are simply not right. The comment, as now edited, makes the same point as before, just without the highly inappropriate personal attack.

      And, this comment has opened up an entire discussion over whether we should allow anonymous comments at all on TLNT. We’re reviewing this issue right now and would appreciate ANY feedback from TLNT readers about this.

    2. I’m really concerned that the original poster included attack language. Is this person on his/her part?

      1. Pardon the typo above – it should have read “I’m really concerned that the original poster included attack language. Is this personal on his/her part?

    3. This characterization by Angry Black Man is not unwarranted. It is most likely intended to reinforce SHRM officials’ comments suggesting that the SHRM Members for Transparency is “… a small group of disgruntled members who wish to remain anonymous.” That was a regrettable public statement by the highest ranking SHRM officials about SHRM former leaders and senior members. SHRM, and presumably Angry Black Man, knew exactly who we were, since we had clearly identified who we were to the SHRM Board and displayed all of our names on our website. (www.shrmmembersfortransparency.com. The only correct part of the statement is that we are “small.” SMFT is intentionally a select group of former SHRM, HRCI and SHRM Foundation Chairs and Board members, SHRM CEOs and SHRM Chapter senior members. Our Steering Committee exists of only 44 people but they represent greater than 1,400 years of SHRM membership. Our intent was always to work cooperatively with the SHRM Board to resolve our differences. The SHRM Board has refused to do so. Thus, we are left with no other alternative than to take our appeal directly to the SHRM membership.

  5. I’m confused by “Way To Go SHRM’s” logic. SHRM hasn’t just become a “large, complex business;” rather, it’s been one for the past 20 years!

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with our wonderful profession. Can we become better leaders and better engaged with our individual businesses? Absolutely!

    I’m not sure what is being said by this group that’s irrational. The concerns seem legitimate, and good governance includes transparency, so answers should be forthcoming.

    Referring to 17 past chairs as “quite dated” is rather harsh, dontcha think? That kinda logic – not utilizing what occurred in the past to plan for the future – is like driving down the highway and not using your rear-view mirror. When you try to pass, you may get into an accident!

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