We Need Courage and Change at SHRM

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), its state, and its local SHRM Chapters need to live up to the courage that their members and the HR Community has displayed these last few weeks and months.

I have signed a petition asking that…

“SHRM Lead – to demand Black Lives Matter, to vigorously advocate for protections for our LGBTQ employees, to actively seek to end the inequalities that run rampant in workplaces, and to help HR fight for the humanity in all of us,”

…and I encourage you to do the same:

Sign the petition:
SHRM must support Black Lives Matter & the LGBTQ community

I have been a member of SHRM and my local chapter my entire career. I’ve been a chapter leader, a chapter president, a state council leader, a volunteer advocate for SHRM Student Chapters, a SHRM blogger or some combination thereof every year until a few months ago when the covid-19 pandemic put a stop to just about everything.

I owe much of my success, my expansive network, and my friendships to the community that SHRM has provided on a national and local level. I believed, and I still believe that SHRM and its chapters are a source for good in our profession, and that they have the potential to serve a greater purpose for our communities.

But…

I am deeply disappointed in how SHRM and its chapters have not risen to the occasion as a series of public health, racial injustice, and equality crisis have devastated the livelihoods and health and safety of millions.

Specifically:

  • In response to the covid-19 pandemic, few resources beyond those supporting employer centric “back to work plans” or job search advice have been made available, and they are often hidden behind registration fees or paywalls encouraging a membership purchase.
  • In response to the murder of George Floyd and the global protests against police violence and racial injustice it sparked, messages supporting the rights of Black Americans have been rare and ambiguous, and nearly all have lacked a clear statement that Black Lives Matter.
  • In response to the reversal of anti-discriminatory health care protections for transgender patients there was almost total silence, and in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling that gay and transgender workers cannot be discriminated against, there have been only passing acknowledgements.

In each of these moments individual HR leaders have risen to provide active, visible, consistent, compassionate, and humane support for the people and communities directly affected by these crises. Missing in the equation? The same level of support and compassion from the world’s largest HR association and its state and local chapters.

Do Better:

Today I’m adding my name and my voice to the growing list of HR professionals who are demanding that SHRM and its chapters rise to the occasion. In addition, I am committing to using my voice and my platform to affect change in our local and state SHRM chapters.

Most importantly, I am committing to working WITH any SHRM leader, whether they be at the national, state, or local level, who is ready to do the hard work of ensuring that we are living up to the promise of our profession.

If are an HR professional and ready to make a difference, here’s how to start:

  1. Add your name to the petition and encourage others to do the same. Click here!
  2. Use your platform and your voice to advocate on behalf of others. You are not reading this on any SHRM approved website or social media. You have just as much access to an audience as I do. Be courageous and be vulnerable. It makes a difference!
  3. Engage your local SHRM Chapter leadership and encourage them to take action. Better still, ask that they actively and visibly support the people affected in each of these crisis in a way that displays care and compassion, not just policy.
  4. Get involved in your chapter leadership. Elections for board positions often go unopposed and there are almost always roles available in committees. Ask your chapter president when elections will be held and what the processes are for getting on the ballot, or for joining a committee.

If you are at SHRM or in a leadership role in a state or local SHRM Chapter, here is a roadmap for getting back on track:

Be Active and Visible

  • Publish unambiguous and meaningful statements of support for Black Lives Matter (and against racial injustice), for the LGBTQ community, and for a level playing field for all systemically oppressed peoples and communities in moments when their equality is in peril, and when they have experienced a loss of equality (not just when it is safe to do so).
  • Visibly engage your membership and chapter leaders in moving from words to action. Share the process and the outcomes. Provide the tools and resources they need for implementation at the national, state and local level.
  • Build systems and processes that reinforce your values beyond this moment. Ensure that all stakeholders understand your commitments for the long term. As often as possible, make these systems and processes public. Lead by example – show how organizations can be successful in these efforts.

Build Coalitions and Partnerships

  • Establish partnerships with non-profits, organizations and coalitions that promote equality and success for the above said groups and communities. Learn from their expertise, share tools and resources, and promote their best practices to your membership.
  • Publicly partner with other professional and trade associations in these areas. Partner with associations that have led the way to raise your standard to their level, and then partner with associations who have not begun this work to help raise their standard to your level.
  • Establish processes that assure the highest levels of your organization receive feedback from members, state and chapter leaders, and stakeholders. Promote and substantially strengthen communications channels that already exist in these areas.

Communicate Communicate Communicate

  • Develop or curate resources for addressing the crises we are facing and then make them available for FREE. Use your vast reach to promote the use of these resources for the greater good of employees and their communities. Communicate their availability widely and regularly.
  • Regularly communicate your intentions with your members and state and SHRM chapter leadership when in the midst of addressing crisis. Establish a cadence of communication that offers assurance, especially when it will take time to develop a formal plan. Do not let silence be your default state.
  • Clearly and regularly communicate the efforts you have put into place with your state and local chapter leadership, including your expectations that they follow your example in the communities they serve.
  • Overcommunicate. Do not assume that your membership and stakeholders know where you stand on these and other critical issues. Articulate your position and the reasons for your decisions. Be direct and clear. Repeat these messages regularly. All members and stakeholders deserve the clarity they need to make decisions about how they engage with your association.

Again, I am committed to working WITH any SHRM leader, whether they be at the national, state, or local level. I still believe that SHRM and its chapters are a source for good in our profession and I still believe SHRM members and HR professionals at large want to be actively involved in the solutions to the crisis we are facing.

But to have the best chance at doing so we need courage and a change in mindset from SHRM. And we need it now.

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