The world of HR blogging has changed.

If you work in HR and haven’t heard, the Society for Human Resource Management holds an annual conference and changed its policies on who gets a free pass. Anybody can go for a price, but you have to meet specific standards around follower size and influence if you want a free pass.

Why the change? Well, for one, the CEO of the organization takes a lot of flack from people online who don’t like his affiliation with Donald Trump. Capitalism is ruthless, and he doesn’t have to support a community of individuals who don’t like him. Second, there’s no real indication that SHRM’s corporate brand profits from giving out free passes. Do you feel like HR has improved the world of work? Does it seem like the epicenter of the conversation around fixing work comes from SHRM? Do you think people like HR more? (Spoiler alert: They don’t.)

So, in historic SHRM fashion, they flubbed a strategic rollout of a program and pissed off a lot of bloggers and other assorted members who wanted a free pass. Would it have killed SHRM to announce a transition year and throw a few free passes out to the community as a gesture of goodwill? (Yes, yes, it would have absolutely killed them.)

But they have a history of abruptly ending relationships.

Back in 2016, I was criticizing SHRM for being tone-deaf on a lot of issues. Then I published a poorly-written blog post about HR Magazine, and that was the last straw. I was informally banned from the SHRM ecosystem. The word went out from HQ that you can do business with Ruettimann or SHRM, but not both. And within two months, I lost $50,000 in speaking and content marketing contracts.

When I complained to my friends, they told me to stop whining. One of them used this analogy: It’s not fair to complain about the cookie jar while you’re grabbing a snack. Also, you claim to be allergic to SHRM’s recipes, but you’re shoving those ingredients down your throat as fast as you can.

It’s not a perfect description of my circumstances, but my friends believed that the SHRM break would be good for my business. Someone said, “Go and be ‘HR famous’ outside of SHRM, and return to the community with big ideas and credibility of your own.”

Nearly four years later, that is where I’m at today: meeting new people, sharing my ideas about the economy, having conversations with leaders to help them rethink how they approach workers and creating a platform where future generations can put themselves first, take control of their careers, and be their own HR. Nearly everything I write or produce — content, podcasts, ideas, messages — shows up in SHRM branding or out of Johnny C. Taylor’s mouth a few months later.

That “break” changed my life. And ending your relationship with the SHRM community could change yours.

Rejection and FOMO are real, and I know many of you are grieving the lost opportunity to connect with friends and learn from a more widespread HR community. But growth happens when you’re least comfortable and forced to change. If you don’t get a free pass from SHRM, think about the extraordinary opportunities this can open for your life. Where could you go in June when everybody is watching Carly Fiorina explain how she hates Donald Trump and supported his impeachment but might not vote for a Democrat? How will you improve the world of HR when you’re not listening to Johnny C. Taylor flaunt his connections to an administration that separates families and traumatizes children? What counterprogramming can you create to help leaders and workers care about the employee experience instead of caring about conference swag?

Y’all are influencers. I believe in you. It’s why I’m still here blogging and tweeting. Don’t be sad that you can’t attend SHRM. See this temporary hiccup as an opportunity to test your mettle, change the world (of work), and, hopefully, shine.


  1. Laurie, I am a big fan and supporter, but I have to disagree with you about your comments supporting people walking away from SHRM.

    I am the President-Elect of SHRM-Atlanta and can speak to the great community that we have locally built. While I understand that people can have their differences with SHRM National, it is a very different story at the local level (where it really happens).

  2. I agree that the regional chapters offer a lot of value but it is very hard for them to build a sustainable offer to members. We are hoping to fix this It’s too bad about SHRM national as they have so much potential to create a positive impact on the professional.

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