SOCIETY FOR HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: Next Act

By Schoeff, Mark, Jr.; Frauenheim, Ed | Workforce Management, February 4, 2008 | Go to article overview

SOCIETY FOR HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: Next Act


Schoeff, Mark, Jr., Frauenheim, Ed, Workforce Management


WITH ITS CEO STEPPING DOWN AND A STRATEGIC REVIEW LOOMING, WILL THE WORLD'S LARGEST HR GROUP HEAD IN A NEW DIRECTION?

With Las Vegas as the setting for its annual conference and life-size stand-up cards in place to showcase individual members and a refashioned logo, the Society for Human Resource Management announced in June 2007 that it was rebranding itself-an effort designed, in part, to emphasize the strategic nature of human resources.

Indeed, SHRM president and CEO Susan Meisinger said that SHRM was rebranding the HR profession as a whole. "We want people to know that our new look is a reflection of our profession's increasing influence and responsibility," she said.

Now, six months into its rebranding effort, and as SHRM is about to undertake a lengthy and comprehensive strategic review, Meisinger, 55, has announced that she intends to retire from the organization in June. After 20 years in various positions at SHRM, she is going to devote time to a couple close family members who are ill.

I need to be present, she said in an interview in Washington a few days after her January 8 retirement announcement to SHRM staffers. "In the big scheme of things [over the next] 20 years, my family will be my priority, not SHRM."

As SHRM's board sets about naming her successor, there are pivotal questions ahead for the organization, which has grown by 63,000 members since 2002, when Meisinger stepped up to lead it.

Such growth is impressive, but it also makes it more challenging for SHRM to serve all its constituencies-from newbie HR clerk to chief human resource officer. During its strategic review, SHRM also will consider how to respond to opportunities in its market.

"The amount of time spent around the boardrooms and in the C-suite discussing talent is causing HR to have to raise its game," Meisinger says. Within that atmosphere, "how do we leverage our strength for maximum impact? That's where the focus of the conversation needs to be."

In interviews with SHRM leaders, society members and observers of the HR profession, what has emerged is this picture of the organization:

With 233,000 members worldwide, SHRM is huge and growing, in part by reaching out to people who are not traditionally seen as being part of the HR profession.

* With 2006 revenue of $95 million and $ 179 million in assets, SHRM is rich. The society has $ 122 million of its assets in long-term investments, which is tens of millions of dollars more on hand than many other nonprofits its size.

* With its broad organizational reach, SHRM is an effective Washington lobbying organization, making its opinion heard on public policy matters ranging from immigration to the Family and Medical Leave Act-issues that not only affect HR practitioners, but can influence the financial future of companies nationwide.

* Finally, there is a good deal of debate over SHRM's very broad member-service mission. Some HR professionals question whether it really can be a valuable resource for executives and senior HR officials-the real focal point of strategic HR practice-when it also caters to thousands of entry-level and midlevel practitioners.

(Workforce Management competes directly with SHRM's publication, HR Magazine, and its Web site, SHRM.org, both editorially and for advertising revenue.)

GROWTH STRATEGY

SHRM points to its 233,000 members as evidence that it is accomplishing its mission of advancing the profession and serving the professional.

"The membership growth has been largely because of the value proposition we offer," Meisinger says. "People know when they come to us, we're giving them quality information. They're comfortable in the advocacy positions we're taking."

Another reason SHRM is so big is that it does not reject anyone who signs up and pays the $ 160 annual fee. It adds about 50,000 people to its rolls each year and retains about 81 percent of its membership annually. …

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