Transparency Group Gets Another Meeting With SHRM Board March 4

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

More than four months after the long-awaited meeting between leaders of the SHRM Members for Transparency group and members of the SHRM Board of Directors, frustration seems to be setting in — at least on the part of the Transparency Group.

In a “Member Update” sent out last week, Transparency Group member Kate Herbst, SPHR (and 1999 HRCI Chair), called efforts to schedule a follow-up meeting with representatives of the SHRM Board “disappointing.”

As TLNT has previously reported, the SHRM Members for Transparency group — 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 – pushed for the better part of a year for a face-to-face meeting with the Board to discuss a number of Board policies and decisions that SMFT believe “are not in SHRM members best interests and, in some cases, were unknown to SHRM members.”

Results of the Oct. 5 meeting

These issues include a lack of openness and transparency by the SHRM Board as it secretly voted in 2010 to raise the annual salary for Board members and increase perks for Board travel.

Some of SHRM’s leadership, including current Board Chair Jose Berrios, and immediate past Chair Robb Van Cleave — reached out to leaders of the Transparency Group during SHRM’s annual conference in Las Vegas last June and said that a group of Board members was willing to finally meet with the SMFT group. They would be willing to discuss various issues with SMFT in the hope that it would help to re-establish understanding and a more positive relationship.

That meeting took place on October 5 in Chicago, and according to the latest update from Kate Herbst and the leadership of the Transparency Group, some positive things were accomplished:

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We are pleased that several SMFT concerns were addressed and appeared to be resolved at the meeting, including:

  • The election ballot was amended to include opportunities for write-in candidates for each open position on the Board, as we had previously recommended (rather than just the one write-in opportunity as was on the previous ballot).
  • SHRM Board representatives agreed not to directly link future dues increases to the CPI.
  • SHRM Board representatives agreed that the SHRM mission will be updated to reflect our suggestions.

Following the meeting, our SMFT representatives worked with SHRM Board representatives to craft a joint statement to reflect the collaborative tone of the meeting, as well as the mutual desire to continue the dialogue at upcoming meetings. We released that statement to our followers on November 16, 2011, and subsequently detailed outcomes of that meeting with our 52-member Steering Committee on a conference call. We continued to display a positive tone toward SHRM and refrained from any public negativity. In the spirit of transparency, we also began copying SHRM Board Members on our SMFT Member Updates by sending them to the published Board Members address of Additionally, we publicly endorsed the 2012 SHRM Board candidates who are HR professionals and encouraged our followers to vote for them.”

SMFT frustrations set in

Those are the positives of the meeting with the SHRM Board members, from the perspective of the Transparency Group leadership (The SHRM Board, for its part, has not made any statements about their perspective on the meeting). But soon after the Chicago discussions, disappointment set in from the Transparency Group’s point of view.

Our expectation was that our joint meeting and the progress made therein would be reviewed with the attendees at the SHRM Leadership Conference in late November. Based on the agreed-upon joint statement, we also expected it to be announced that another joint meeting would be scheduled for early in 2012 to continue our productive dialogue. We subsequently were disappointed when we heard from our State Director contacts that collaboration with SMFT was not mentioned publicly at the SHRM Leadership Conference.

We also had a growing disappointment and concern about the delay in scheduling the second meeting, especially since it had taken 102 days to have the first meeting. Our concerns were further reinforced when we still hadn’t heard a potential date for the second meeting after more than another 102 days. After repeated attempts, we have been given assurances that the second meeting will occur but, unfortunately, not until Sunday, March 4.”

As always, I have asked the SHRM Board, Chair Jose Berrios, and SHRM’s executive leadership for comment about the Transparency Group’s update and their apparent frustration at the delay in getting a second meeting with Board members. I’m currently waiting on a response (and will update this post should I get one), but in all of my previous requests for comment, Berrios, the Board, and SHRM’s leadership have declined to respond or offer up a statement of any kind.

“We will regroup”

So, where does all of this go from here? Kate Herbst didn’t say exactly in her Transparency Group member update, but take what you will from her closing comment:

Given the continued delays, some of us had fears that SHRM Board representatives may not be as sincere as we had hoped. However, we continue to believe that we need to cooperatively explore the joint meeting avenue to clearly understand the Board’s intent. Unfortunately, the price for this exploration thus far has been some loss to our SMFT momentum, but we believe that, at the very least, it will also result in a crystal-clear situation analysis and understanding of where we need to go from here. At best, we may still be able to work collaboratively with SHRM Board representatives to resolve our differences.

If our joint effort is successful and we are able to appropriately resolve our differences, then SMFT will have done its job. If we are not able to reach agreement with SHRM Board representatives on our remaining concerns, we will regroup with a vigorously reinforced pursuit of our goals.”

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.


2 Comments on “Transparency Group Gets Another Meeting With SHRM Board March 4

  1. Thanks for your continued interest and even coverage on a subject that has less ‘sizzle’ and more confusion for the TLNT audience than some other issues you might spend your time on, John.

    I think it is important for every person who identifies with a profession, any profession, to accept the responsibility to advance it by their actions. It is a form of paying it forward for the next generation and that means more than simply learning the body of knowledge and practicing your craft for 30 years. 

    Sometimes its volunteering to teach, mentor or manage others. Sometimes its working with peers to strengthen the standards surrounding the body of knowledge. And, sometimes its identifying changes you believe in and lobbying to have them made- inside and outside. To simply talk about it and not be willing to put the weight of your skills, knowledge and experience behind it is a missed opportunity.

    I admire anyone in HR who has an opinion about how we should make a difference to the firms and the people in them that we serve… as long as they are walking the talk.

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