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The CEO of SHRM is retiring.

What’s SHRM? It’s the AARP of HR professionals. They are an association who do commercials on CNN and tell everybody about how great it is to work in HR. And, like the people AARP who want us to believe that being an old lady is empowering, they are lying to us.

(Who gets excited about turning 50? Not many people except those who think, yeah, the alternative is death. I’ll turn 50. Those are the same people who work in HR.)

But the workers at SHRM are fantastic and deserve a skilled and talented leader. Here are my criteria for the next CEO of SHRM.

1. Find someone who’s a hero. HR professionals don’t need another business administration who can lead them to the promised land of pertinence. Find an aspirational leader so that a new generation of human resources professionals can look to SHRM and think, “I can do that.”

2. Find someone who isn’t afraid of transparency. SHRM has had major PR gaffes under the retiring CEO, and some of those blunders continue to confuse its membership to this day. How fitting that SHRM is headquartered right outside of DC because it’s the old Nixonian lesson that the cover-up is always worse than the crime. So why not have a confident and persuasive leader who says, “I may not always get it right on the first try, but I’ll always be honest.”

3. Find someone who makes good decisions. The decisions that come across a CEO’s desk are the most difficult an organization will face. Most people think that CEOs work with boards to muddle through complexities, and that’s largely wrong. A CEO must mobilize and inspire the uppermost level of the leadership team, who works with its leadership team, to find solutions before an issue even reaches the board. And, if the board somehow gets involved in anything other than its ordinary business, a CEO presents a unified front and has a series of solutions at hand. But when a CEO is in the pocket of the board, or when s/he can’t marshal the troops, the balance of power shifts and there are few checks and balances. So, find a CEO who can make good decisions from staffing to strategy, and you’ll restore the proper checks and balances at SHRM.

4. Find someone who understands technology. I’m not talking about social media, I’m talking about complex ERPs and HRIS modules. If the new CEO of SHRM hasn’t endured selection and implementation, s/he’s useless to the membership. I know some people will laugh, but switching a payroll provider isn’t just the work of HR. It’s a demonstration of strategic thinking, time management, team dynamics, collaboration, and empathy.

The CEO job of SHRM isn’t an HR job, but it would be fabulous if the new leader of our association could be someone who speaks the language of the average HR leader without the condescending reminder to its membership that it lacks business skills.

I know that SHRM has a shortlist of future CEOs. On the docket are HR leaders from complex industries and COOs from big brands. I just hope there are a few names that excite members in Paducah and Fresno as much as they might excite members of the Beltway-blinded board of directors.

6 Responses to The SHRM CEO is Retiring
  1. Martin Snyder

    It takes a mighty effort & character to prevent institutions from being turned toward the purposes of the elites who control them in this modern age of low social accountability / I Got Mine Jack.

    If SHRM either fails to find one of these rare leaders or a strong counterweight of member interested activists does not exist, the odds are long of it not (perhaps continuing) to happen.

  2. Patrick Lynch

    Great post. Anyone who has worked with the national or with one of the local SHRM chapters has shared many of the thoughts you expressed but were reluctant (self confession) to say them out loud.

  3. Colleen

    The AARP of HR professionals! That is hilarious. So agree with you: I’d love to see an actual leader with real HR experience in the role.

  4. cr

    So….whadda you got goin’ for the next couple a years……?

  5. Holly

    I’ve been disappointed lately in the support services SHRM is offering – they seem to have put everything up for sale now – even after you buy the membership.

    I think associations lose sight of the fact they exist to serve the membership, not to profit from the membership.

  6. Steve Jewell

    SHRM is dead… long live SHRM!