Just Because I was Asked: SHRM Strategic Advice

I was asked to contribute to the recent Voice of HR 2011 SHRM Strategic Advice Series. A number of great bloggers and HR thought leaders threw down some stuff for the Society of Human Resources to think about as it approaches its 2011 planning season…and beyond. I was glad, and proud, to have been asked by “The Voice” to be a part it. Read all the posts – great stuff. This is mine – originally published on November 17, 2010.

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There was a brief moment in 2010 when “SHRM Bashing” became an IOC recognized event. I can honestly say I didn’t partake…ok, maybe a few tweets here and there…oh and one blog post questioning why their (now former) CEO didn’t have an HRCI Certification. But I was largely on their side this year –- a visible supporter of their 2010 Annual Conference and Expo (and plan on being in Vegas in 2011), promoter of theirWeKnowNext campaign, all-around good HR citizen, and long-time active member in good standing.  I’m not really sure when bloggers latched on to this “what I would do to change [pick your favorite punching bag]” theme. I suppose our primary purpose in life is imbuing those who are intellectually less fortunate with our infinite wisdom. And, yes, I too am guilty of this. But I wonder more and more whether we should all just give it a rest — like a moratorium on pretending you know something most people don’t. The very prospect gives me visions of hand-holding, skipping, and My Little Pony.

All-in-all, I actually think SHRM’s got it going on. I’m impressed with the resources they’ve made available, the quality of their content, their legislative agenda and their presence on the Hill, and their foray into the social media realm. Yeah, they definitely need to get their executive team straight — and stable — but what organization doesn’t? So I’m not going to offer any sage strategic advice to SHRM. I will, though, make a plea.

The future of HR hinges almost entirely on the quality of talent we draw to our profession. Ten years ago, “HR” didn’t even show up in a business school course catalog unless you were looking at the one from Cornell’s ILR School. I’m actually impressed by how many of the “Top 10” schools at least claim to have an HR track today. What concerns me, though, is that we still have a bunch of schools and programs that churn out HR box-checkers rather than inject our profession’s pipeline with people who are Ninjas in navigating workplace complexities, optimizing human dynamics, acting with agility, and — above all — thinking critically. We can teach people about benefit plans, employment law, technology, compensation, performance management — blah blah blah — when they get here. But what we really need are people primed to:

  • “Think more nimbly across multiple frameworks, cultures and disciplines”
  • Leverage the hidden benefits of conflict in the workplace
  • Manage the pants off of a project
  • Speak (and speak up) in public with confidence and conviction
  • Usher change
  • Network and sell
  • Apply creativity, foster  innovation
  • Challenge the status-quo
  • Negotiate Jedi-Mind-Trick like
  • Lead through influence
  • Have presence

Without this stuff, you’re a dime-a-dozen and that’s the last thing our reputation needs. Want to make a lasting impact on our profession, SHRM? Start by focusing on the people who haven’t joined it yet. Forget the rest of us…we’re lost causes. If we haven’t figured this stuff out yet, we never will. But the young-guns can make a difference. You just have to help them come to the table prepared to do so.

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