Who Does the World’s Largest HR Org Hire When it Needs a New HR Chief?

Illustration by Dreamstime.
Illustration by Dreamstime.

What do you do when you’re the world’s largest HR organization and you need a new human resources chief?

If you are SHRM, you go out and hire someone with a varied, interesting, and non-traditional (at least as it pertains to HR) background to be your new chief human resources officer.

According to a SHRM press release, as well as an internal memo from CEO Hank Jackson, Dr. Jeff T. H. Pon will join the Society for Human Resource Management as CHRO on March 12.

Memo from SHRM’s CEO

Here is Jackson’s memo:

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to let you know that I have hired an individual for the SHRM CHRO position, Dr. Jeff T. H. Pon, who will start on March 12, 2012. We will be issuing a press release soon. The search has been intensive, but I believe we have identified the right individual to lead our HR functions, and strategic initiatives that will make significant contributions to the profession.

Dr. Pon has a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Alliant International University and a B.A. from the University of Southern California. He has an impressive record of achievement. He is a certified Human Capital Strategist (HCS); however, he indicated that he is anxious to sit for the HR Certification Institute exam.

He is currently President and COO of Futures Inc., an organization whose mission is to help connect returning military and unemployed/underemployed veterans with jobs. At Futures Dr. Pon has led the company’s development of HR technology services that leverages skills latticing, interests and preferences with social networking to better match talent to employers. He has also used his relationship with private sector Human Resource leaders to support the hiring of the military veterans and their families, a precedent that could be helpful with our CHRO strategy.

Prior to working for Futures Inc., Dr. Pon served in several human resource and HR consulting positions including: Principal at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., where he was responsible for developing solutions for federal HR organizations; Director of Brandsoft Mentoring where he was responsible for aligning business operations and workforce planning for multiple Global 1000 companies; Chief Human Capital Officer at US Department of Energy where he handled workforce management and development; and Executive Vice President of HR at Grand Battery Technologies where he was responsible for US and global HR functions.

I have been impressed with Jeff’s understanding of the future of human resource management in the global business environment and I look forward to introducing him to you. I believe he will be a great addition to the SHRM Leadership Team and affiliated organizations.

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Best regards,


“Anxious” to sit for the HRCI exam

You can parse that memo, and Hon’s background, as you see fit, but I was struck by how Jackson went out of his way to mention that, “(Pon) is a certified Human Capital Strategist (HCS); however, he indicated that he is anxious to sit for the HR Certification Institute exam.”

This seems (at least to me) as an attempt to head off possible criticism that the new Chief Human Resources Officer for the world’s largest HR organization is not HRCI certified. That’s been an issue with the SHRM Members for Transparency group  — that so many of the sitting SHRM Board  members are not HRCI certified, and how much of a change that is from past practice.

My guess is that this will be an issue for some concerning Pon’s appointment as CHRO, too, and Jackson’s mention that he’s “anxious’ to sit for the certification exam is an attempt to get out in front of the issue and answer concerns before they surface. The press release from SHRM about Pon’s appointment makes specific reference to this too, indicating that Pon “stated that “I look forward to adding ‘SPHR’” to his credentials.

Dr. Pon also added this: “I am thrilled to be joining this esteemed HR organization at such an exciting time,” he said in the SHRM press release. “The opportunity to contribute to SHRM’s efforts to strengthen its membership, build global competencies and engage senior HR leaders is a unique opportunity to give back to the profession that has given me so much.”

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.


10 Comments on “Who Does the World’s Largest HR Org Hire When it Needs a New HR Chief?

  1. Well —- your connection of SHRM and HRCI only reinforces the confusion that exists regarding the relationship between the two.   Although they are supposed to be separate in every way —- one seems to be subordinate to the other and take directions from them (HRCI to SHRM).

    Regarding “sitting for the SHRM certification” ( I don’t care about parsing the difference between HRCI and SHRM —- the cert is known to be SHRM’s) all I can say to Dr. Hon is you will get nothing from it.   As far as his having the HCS — GREAT for him.   It is a GREAT cert and Human Capital Institute is a GREAT organization.   Shame more people don’t know more about it.  It truly deserves to be the nationally recognized association for HR professionals.

    (And no —- this is not a paid recommendation!)

    1. I certainly agree that there may be confusion about the relationship between SHRM and HRCI, but that’s another topic for another day. My point was that SHRM seems to be sensitive to criticism that their Board members and top executives aren’t HRCI certified as much now compared to the recent past.

      There is a school of thought that this trend isn’t good, and that the dwindling number of Board members and SHRM executives with HR certifications — even current SHRM Board Chair Jose Berrios isn’t HRCI certified — reflects a conscious effort to move away from having career HR professionals leading the world’s largest HR organization.

      Now, you can debate if that’s good or bad, or if HR certifications really matter, or if anyone out there besides the SHRM Members for Transparency group really cares about any of that. Those are all subjects reasonable people can debate and disagree on.

      But my point wasn’t about any of that, or even any confusion between the relationship between SHRM and HRCI. No, my point was that it seemed odd for SHRM’s CEO to mention this issue in a press release announcing the hiring of the organization’s new top HR officer — and that it reflected how sensitive SHRM is to the criticism they have gotten, and that they expect to get, that more and more of their leadership aren’t certified HR pros.

      Am I reading that wrong? I don’t think so, but I’m open to comments from anyone who reads the press release, and Hank Jackson’s comments, differently. 

      1. I think you are right on target and the evidence of the sensitivity of SHRM to criticism is that they have not provided any coverage of the issues raised by the SHRM Members for Transparency group in their publications – electronic or otherwise.  The only coverage I have seen is from TLNT.com.  I wrote a letter to the Editor of HR Magazine about their failure to cover a significant story. Thank you for the updates and insights.

      2. Hi John

        I guess I see some relevance to senior SHRM leaders being HRCI qualified, however, is it really, truly, absolutely something they need to prove their effectiveness to lead and govern a Top HR organization?There are a number of CHRO’s and top HR leaders running HR operations for very large organizations that are not only non-HCRI certified, but as well, not an HR practitioner by trade.  These leaders are extremely effective business leaders that know how to run business functions reagrdless of the function type.  I, myself, an not HRCI certified (instead, MHCS certified from HCI), yet I possess competencies and skills to effectively run any HR operation.But going back to your orginal discussion, I realize we may be talking SHRM leadership, and that maybe since SHRM makes provisions for PHR and SPHR certification, that it may appear “credible” that SHRM execs have the credentials they back.  I, however, see it a bit differently, and feel that if the SHRM Execs know HR, practice HR, lead HR, and grow HR at SHRM, which ultimately grows the HR profession, then having HRCI certification makes no difference one way or the other.Just my take!

  2. Thank you John for staying so committed to reporting on the profession. I read the memo exactly as you stated. There tends to be lots of misunderstandings and stereotyping that deserve ongoing conversation somewhere (as the few comments here clearly indicate) and I’m appreciative that a neutral forum outside of SHRM’s firewall exists at TLNT. 

    Personally,  I view those who get their certification as no better nor worse in performance than these who don’t-  after all it is knowledge, skills AND experience as well as the effort they project to their stakeholders in walking the talk that leads to their success. So, implications that someone is better or worse simply don’t make much sense to me. Its a non-starter argument.

    That said, I’m a fan of leading from the front and, if I value the knowledge demonstrated by HRCI certifications as a base condition for the people I lead (and I do), then by expressing his intention to get certified (and then doing it) Jeff Pon will earn sizable respect from people who appreciate that style of leadership- not just the people who work directly for him (who by the way have passed that exam), but the  250,000 members who have expressed an interest in HR as well as the 100,000 plus among them who have cared enough to sit for the exam. That is the reason we expect those in SHRM’s leadership…to lead by example. It is also more natural for me to respect the comments and listen to the criticisms of those who have walked in my shoes. Certainly Jeff has great credentials that in any other role might argue against the need to add one more. Not here.

    While there is much about the HRCI certifications I would enjoy seeing improve, I’m fairly intimate in my knowledge of the extraordinary people involved and the incredibly effort that goes into creating and managing an independent test of a growing body of knowledge that HRCI has a defacto stewardship responsibility over. (I’m not as much a fan of ‘for-profit’ certifications no matter how well constructed. They just don’t stand up to my smell test for potential conflict of interest.)

    1. Reading your post, I must disagree to a minmal extent. No thrid party certification or membership will out weigh a universities bestowal of a diploma. I am a person who worked all my life, lost my vision(literally) and went back to school. I earned over a five year period of time an MBA maintaining a 4.0 GPA and could not see anything.

      It is with great pride that I am a member of Alpha Chi National Honor Society, and know that I truly learned from hands on experience that allowed transition to academia leading to the bestowal of my degree.

      When a person is blind they must adept all other senses to ensure self-preservation. I did have minimal assistance where some one would look over an APA draft and assist with alignment, but I did my own research, prepared my own documents and submitted on time as all other students.

      The anology that third party testing by alleged groups like SHRM do not validate a person has or will have the abilty and the alleged exam is a farse to say the least. The most productive source for learning is via CFR regulations, ADA ammendments, EEOC and Affirmative actions updates and last to visit often Labor Unions for current expectations and to invest time and resources in basic legal studies that affect Business, Education, and by all means study the FAR as the federal governent is the largest employer in the USA.

      At the end of the day, as you stated it is knowledge, an it goes to say further that “an ounce of prevention is far more valuable than a pound of cure”. The ideas of alleged certifications simply set out to undermind the very institutions of education, the performances of employees who spend their lives learning and practicing their professions.

      What it Law Enforcement officials, nurses, doctors, lawers, CPA’s and Finanical advisors had to retake test every single year to renew licenses? Would they be trusted? Well the same standards and respect for others in their respected professions should be reflected and SHERM does not care as long as they are paid their outrageouse fees.

  3. Rob —- Workforce published an article about the issue soon after the SHRM annual conference.

    1. Sorry Rob —- TLNT was actually the first to report the issue.   Workforce published it after TLNT

  4. I do not think SHRM has the right to allegedly claim they are the “Only” certification authority in the United States or the World. They are over priced and do not provide fair access to anyone who has a fundamental right to work in the filed of HRM without paying their exhorbitent fees. No one has to be a member or set for their overpriced exams to prove they have the skills and abilities to perform the task. I feel they are an organization that violates the very antitrust laws we respect here in the USA. Each state sets its laws for employment counselors and  this agency should cease trying to represent they are the only body who can determine who is or is not qualified.

    When and where it becomes a matter of law this will be different, however stop using people to make money on useless documents.

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